1st in a series


The first novella in the Bulletproof Witch series which is a Fantasy Western.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Publisher: Lily & Rose Publishing LLC
Page count: 124
Artist: Jin A. Lee

The novella has six black and white interior drawings which reflect the mood very well.

Temperance Whiteoak is the granddaughter of a famous pistol warlock James ”Brimstone” Whiteoak. However, after her family was killed, she doesn’t advertise her connections. She’s a bounty hunter, hunting daemons. Now, she’s on the trail of Belial, a powerful daemon. She wants both information from him and the bounty. But when she hunts him down, she must fight him and gets very little info for her trouble. When she brings the daemon (in a magical tube) to the closest town, her troubles only start: the sheriff doesn’t have enough money to pay her. However, a Federation marshal is just bringing in a prisoner and needs a partner to transport the prisoner to the nearest big city, a week away. Temperance doesn’t want to go there but she has not choice. However, the sheriff didn’t tell her about the real difficulties: the prisoner is a warlock and his gang of criminals will try to rescue him and that Temperance must follow the rules for Federation marshals, which means no killing.

Temperance has nothing but scorn for the marshals and their rules. Luckily, her telepathic horse Astor is there to help her, along with the hexbullets she inherited from her family. Temperance and Astor are trying to get revenge on the people, or daemons, who killed Temperance’s family and Astor isn’t happy about the dangerous detour.

She knows how to make hexbullets which, combined with the right word or words, produce different magic effects. However, they’re not cheap to make and take a lot of time, too. To her disgust, the marshal doesn’t know much about hexbullets or magic. Most people seem to use ordinary bullets. Also, while pistol warlocks are legal, other forms of magic seem to be illegal.

The story is set in a fantasy world of Korvana. There’s a reference that the local inhabitant are descended from island or another continent called Galinor. Still, at least some of the current people seem think of those who came recently from Galinor as foreigners. People know about daemons which seem to be able to take over a human body. The Church pays a bounty on them.

Temperance is a very determined young woman who has only recently turned 17. However, she’s quite mature for her age because she’s had to face danger since she was quite young. She’s also been alone for several years, except for Astor. She has secrets and so avoids people who want to question her.

This was a quick and fun read. I haven’t read many weird western books but I liked this one quite a lot. I’m going to read the next novella in the series.

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The first book in the Q-Continuum Star Trek: the Next Generation trilogy. Also number 47 in the ST:TNG book series.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 271

The book is set a couple of months after the movie First Contact so this isn’t quite the ST:TNG crew I’m used to: Data has an emotion chip, Geordi has eyes, Worf is on DS9, and the ship is the Enterprise-E which doesn’t have any families on board. The new chief of security is Lieutenant Baeta Leyoro who is quite aggressive for a Starfleet officer.

The book starts with a mysterious male being who wants to be let out from somewhere.

The Enterprise has been assigned to a mission to breach the galactic barrier which has only been done before by the original Enterprise. It’s an energy and psychic barrier which not only prevents ships from passing through but also makes the humanoids inside insane. However, a Betazoid scientist has come up with a way to breach it with a wormhole and Starfleet has ordered the Enterprise to try it. The experiment is a continuation of previous scientists’ work, as seen on DS9 episode “Rejoined”.

The scientist in question, Dr. Lem Faal, is suffering from fatal Iverson’s disease. Also, his wife died in a freak accident a few months ago and his two young children are with him on the Enterprise. Faal is focused on his research so much that he’s almost ignoring the kids. While the young one is too young to be a POV character, the older one, Milo, resents that his father is so focused on his work.

When the ship is only a few days from the barrier, Q shows up and orders them to stay away. To complicate matter even more, his mate Q and their young son q also show up. Also, the mysterious, gaseous beings called the Calamaraine attack the ship.

The story has lots of references to previous events, from Q’s very first appearance to his Voyager and DS9 episodes. Other past events are also mentioned, such as Troi’s pregnancy. The female Q and the child q are from the Voyager episodes. Picard even thinks that the female Q looks familiar. I’m pretty sure that it’s a reference to the actress Suzie Plakson who also played Doctor Selar and the Klingon ambassador K’Ehylar. Lieutenant Barclay is a significant secondary character.

If you like Q, like I do, you’re probably going to enjoy the book and the series. However, if you can’t stand Q, stay away. The second half of the book shows Q as a teenager billions of years ago.

The book ends in a cliffhanger and nothing is resolved.

The first novella is the Tensorate fantasy series. It has a companion novella The Red Threads of Fortune.

Publication year: 2017
Format: ebook
Publisher: TOR

The novella follows 35 years in the life of Akeha, one of twin children born to the Protector, who is the tyrant ruler of the Protectorate. They’re the youngest of her children. The story begins when Sung, the High Abbott of the Grand Monastery, comes to the Protector to collect a reward he was promised: one of the Protector’s children as a novice. Sung has his eye on the youngest of the Protector’s children, but instead he’s confronted by twin newborns. While the Protector is merciless, she always keeps her word. So, Sung gets two new novices instead of just one. However, the monastery can accept children only when they’re six years old.

Six years later, the twins Akeha and Mokoya arrive to the monastery. Both are upset because they’re taken away from their home. Even then, Akeha is the serious one and Mokoya expresses feelings far more freely. They are both too young to have chosen a gender or sex, so they’re both called “they”.

When the twins are nine, it’s become clear that Mokoya has the gift (or curse, depending) of seeing into the future. When their mother Protector hears about it, she wants Mokoya sent back to her. However, Akeha overhears this and the twins run away. One of them almost dies. After that, the Abbott sends both of them back.

I quite enjoyed the twins, but the world-building was particularly great. It has a magic system based on most of the traditional elements (fire, water, earth) with the addition of forest and metal. They’re used quite creatively; earth for example controls gravity and water motion. Magic is called the Slack and using it is slackcraft. We don’t actually see much of the society at large, because the twins grow up in the monastery and then later Akeha moves around quite a lot. But what we saw was fascinating. The most striking is perhaps that children are born without gender or biological sex. When they decide if they want to be male or female, doctors apparently change them biologically. We don’t hear more than that about it. Akeha and Mokoya make a pact that they won’t choose, but they were five when they did that and eventually Mokoya chooses a gender. Akeha is shocked because they haven’t even thought about it, despite being in the court since they were nine years old. Apparently, the Protector (their mother) didn’t consider Akeha a pawn in the marriage market.

Akeha is the main character of the novella. They are a serious and contemplative person. But when they are determined to do something, nothing stands in their way. They can also be jealous and perhaps a little too quick to kill when violence is needed.

At the beginning, Mokoya is a significant character, too, but then their lives go in different directions, Mokoya is left behind. Their relationship as children is shown in much more detail than any other relationship. Perhaps that’s why the latter part of the story felt a little rushed to me. The people important to Akeha then were not given enough time to really matter to me. Otherwise, I loved this novella and I was happy to see that the Finnish library system has the companion story.

The first book in a Robin Hood retelling (or rather a reinterpretation) with a gay Robin.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 17 hours 22 minutes
Narrators: Ross Pendleton

This retelling is set during the time of king Richard the Lionheart (1185 to be exact), as usual, but otherwise it’s somewhat different from the others I’ve read because we don’t really see any of the Merry Men because this story begins when Robin is quite young, before he was an outlaw. His parents and sister Marion are significant characters.

The Normans have established themselves as the lords of England and have brought their Christianity, as well. The local Saxons have their own customs and their religion of the Horned God (also called Hunter, Cernunnos) and the Lady (also called the Maiden). The Church is trying to, of course, stamp out the old religion.

Adam of Loxley is the local lord’s gamekeeper and he’s also the Horned Lord’s representative in the mortal world while his wife is the representative of the Lady. His wife, Elunet, is a wise woman and a healer. However, the Horned Lord has already chosen his next representative: Adam’s teenaged son Rob who is also called Hob-Robyn by his mother.

Rob has quite a temper and he makes no secret that he’s attracted to other men. He’s proud and it’s sometimes difficult for him to act as a humble Saxon. He’s also disdainful of the new religion. His elder sister Marion is somewhat less stubborn and calmer.

The local lord is the Earl of Huntingdon. He has three sons but loves the youngest the best. Gamelyn is more of a scholar than a fighter but has learned to use the sword as well. His eldest brother is a brutal teacher. Gamelyn wants to become a scholar and the only way to do that is to become a monk. However, when his horse throws him and Rob finds him, his destiny becomes something quite different.

The young men are at odds as first, especially because Rob despised Normans and the casual brutality they inflict on the peasants, like him. However, he can’t deny that he’s attracted to the red-headed young lord. Gamelyn, for his part, is a devout Catholic and that means that love between men is an abomination to him.

Rob and Gamelyn make quite a cute pair but the moment Gamelyn is away from Rob, he’s overcome with shame and remorse. I’m also not quite sure why Rob is attracted to him in the first place. Gamelyn wants to be a dutiful son to his elderly father and wants to be a scholar. When he’s attracted to Rob, his whole identity is called to question.

This retelling is heavily bound in myths and the struggle between religions as well as the romance between Rob and Gamelyn. Sometimes Rob’s Horned Lord speaks to him in his mind. The Lady also speaks to Marion. There’s also an old druid who apparently sees the future. The Christians don’t seem to have any magic but the only Christian whose POV we get is Gamelyn.

The cultures are described well, through the characters. Both sides are convinced that they’re right and they demonize the other. The Christians revile the pagans as amoral like animals and the Saxons think that the Christian god is a hypocrite talking of love and yet it’s alright to hurt the Saxons and deny same-sex love.

The book ends in a very dark cliffhanger.

The first book in a romantic urban fantasy series Golgotham.

Publication year: 2010
Format: print
Publisher: Roc
Page count: 289

Tate was born into filthy rich family, but she loathes her parents and their lifestyle. She’s trying to make a career as a metal sculptor and her parents think that’s just a phase. So, she wants to show them and make a living with it. However, her current neighbors are complaining about the noise she makes while sculpting (with hammers and a blowtorch) so, she needs to move. Also, she caught her boyfriend/fiancé cheating on her in her apartment which is another reason to move.

Tate sees an ad about a cheap apartment but it’s in the Golgotham area of New York City. In this world, there are magical creatures living openly but they’re often live in the same area and in NYC that’s Golgotham. Tate goes to see the apartment and it’s bigger than her previous one. She also meets the landlord, a young man whom she’s instantly attracted to even though he’s a Kymeran, a six-fingered man who was born with magical powers. Hexe is a sorcerer but he only uses right hand magic, which means healing magic. Of course, he could make a lot more money by doing curses, like most other Kymerans. That’s why he needs renters. He also has a demon familiar which looks like a cat and can talk (disdainfully).

Tate decides to move but finds out quickly that normal humans don’t want to deal with Golgothamites at all, to the point where taxis and moving vans simply don’t go in to that area of the city. Fortunately, Hexe knows a lot of people in Golgotham who can help her.

Then Tate thinks the sees a cat or a puppy in distress, but when she goes out to help it, it turns out that the animal is much larger: a werecreature. Through him Tate and Hexe find about a despicable way that the local mafia boss is using magical people and creatures.

The story is set in New York so it’s definitely urban fantasy. In addition to the Kymerans, the world has plenty of fantasy creatures such as centaurs, who draw taxies, leprechauns, dryads, and dwarfs. Humans consider them exotically curious creatures, at least when they don’t have to deal with the magical races daily. Many humans are racist against them, though, and some magic creatures are similarly racist against humans.

The story is focused on exploring Golgotham and some of the people who live there. Hexe also has some secrets of his own, although I guessed most of them pretty early on. Tate and Hexe are immediately attracted to each other but Tate has trouble trusting a boyfriend candidate and some people can’t accept a human and Kymeran as a couple. An action plot doesn’t kick in until late in the novel; mostly it’s about Tate and Hexe getting to know each other.

I enjoyed this book because of the characters. Hexe is great: he has principles and isn’t afraid to stand by them. He’s also a healer who refuses to deal with curses. However, that refusal doesn’t really affect his finances; it would have definitely been far more impressive if it did. Tate is an artist and not the delicate little flower type. She’s impulsive and sometimes blurts out things when she shouldn’t. She’s also loyal and wants to protect animals. She also doesn’t know much about the Kymerans or the other magical races, but she’s not prejudiced against them and is willing to learn.

On the other hand, she’s not a martial artist nor does she have any magical powers. While it was somewhat refreshing it also unfortunately makes her a sideliner (or a hostage) in fights. I also really enjoyed Hexe’s familiar Scratch and his disdainful attitude towards, well, everyone.

The story has a more relaxed pace and far less battle than most UF. It can be read as a stand-alone.

The first book in a steampunk trilogy.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 37 minutes
Narrators: Luke Daniels

Romulus Buckle is the captain of the steam airship Pneumatic Zeppelin. In this post-apocalyptic world, people die young and so Buckle himself and his crew are all under 22. He’s an orphan, like many of the young people, and he was adopted by Balthazar Crankshaft, the leader of the Crankshaft clan. Now, Balthazar has been kidnapped and he is in the dungeons of the impenetrable City of the Founders. Romulus and his crew are on their way to rescue him. But first they must brave the terrible dangers of the wastelands of Noxious Mustard where forgewalkers, steampipers, and other enemies lurk.

The chapters are very short and the point-of-views switch from chapter to chapter. Some of them are flashbacks. I didn’t mind the flashbacks, in fact I found some of them quite interesting but on the other hand sometimes they frustrated me when a flashback was inserted in the middle of a fight scene.

The book has a lot of swashbuckling action and a bit of drama, as well. The airship itself is very well described and it’s often right in the middle of fighting, a character by itself. The writing style is very verbose and might get some time to get used to, but it gives a unique atmosphere to the story. The names are also very distinctive, such as Pluteus Brassballs who leads, of course, the Ballblasters, and Andromeda Pollux, leader of the alchemist clan.

The story has a couple of significant female characters, as well. Sabrina Serafim is the navigator and the second in command of the ship. She’s also Romulus’ adopted sister. Max is the half-Martian chief engineer and she keeps her emotions under tight control, because Martian emotions run hotter than humans. Some characters are also prejudiced against Martians.

This was a fun and action-packed adventure. It didn’t quite end a cliffhanger but the crew isn’t safe yet.

The first book in the SF series Expanse.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 582 (including an excerpt from the next book and Corey’s interview)

I’ve watched the two seasons of Expanse on Netflix, so I was quite familiar with the world and the story when I started to read the book. However, I was somewhat surprised to find out that the book had only Holden and Miller’s point-of-views and reaches about the middle of the second season. Also, I couldn’t help but to think of the actors and whole visual image of the show. The book didn’t have much descriptions of items, which was also a surprise. My two favorite gadgets from the show are the hand terminals which can be pulled to a smaller or larger size and the zero-g boots which turn off or on when you click them together. I don’t think they were described at all in the book.

James Holden is the second-in-command of the ice miner ship Canterbury. He’s from Earth and used to be in the military but was drummed out and is now on an old space ship. When the Canterbury receives a distress signal from a small ship, the captain orders Holden and four others to investigate. They take a small ship and go out. While they’re investigating, a strange ship destroys Canterbury and everyone on it. Shocked and horrified, Holden sends out the video of the destruction and indicates that Mars is responsible. Holden is an idealist and thinks that people will do the right thing, when they see the video. Unfortunately, the relations between Earth and Mars, between Mars and the rest of the inhabited solar system called the Belt, and between Earth and the Belt are very strained and some people use the video as a reason, or excuse, to stir up war. But Holden and his small crew are stranded and don’t know anything about it. When they call of the company for advice, they’re told to surrender to the Martians. Reluctantly, they do so, but the huge warship is soon under attack.

Josephus Miller is a cop at Ceres station, or rather he works for the security firm which is contracted to keep order on the station. The station has several criminal organizations and it’s his job to know they don’t step over the line. Sometimes he’s given a side mission, like now. The Mao family want their adult daughter Julie back. Essentially, Miller must kidnap her to do that. Reluctantly, Miller starts to look for her but before he can find out much, the station is rocked by the news of Canterbury’s destruction and that Mars could be behind it. When the dust clears a little, Miller returns to Juliet’s case and comes quickly to admire the willful and independent girl. She’s apparently mixed up in very dangerous company and Miller is also drawn in.

Miller and Holden are quite different POV characters. Holden is an idealist who wants the people to know everything possible so that they can make the right choices. Miller has been in the security business for almost 20 years and has seen the worst of humanity. He’s a cynic, always expecting the worst and rarely disappointed.

The world, or solar system, seems dystopic to me: most people (at least the ones we see here) are poor and struggling to survive on Ceres and on Eros station. Then we have the very rich and powerful who have their own agendas and toys. The tensions between people for the Belt, Earth, and Mars seem pretty clear racism to me; no rational cause, just fearing and hating people who are different or coming from a different place. Belters are described as taller and slenderer than humans from the gravity well (Earth and Mars), but in this case I think watching the show did a bit of a disservice to me because of course the actors couldn’t be like that.

Compared to the show, the book has very few female characters and suffers a bit from the “only one girl in a team” syndrome.

Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the book. The tv-show is very faithful to it so many of the scenes were familiar. Of course, there are some differences, as well. The book combines noir mystery, thriller, and horror to the main science fiction genre. It moved along at a nice pace and when it needed to jump ahead some weeks, it was done well. It’s different from many other SF series because it doesn’t have aliens and humanity is confined to our solar system. It’s also handles space travel more realistically, with radiation and the stresses in the body when the ship must accelerate.

The book can be read as a stand-alone but I’m definitely continuing with the series and impatiently waiting for the third season to arrive here.

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