Monday, March 18, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/16

I have three things to tell you about this week -- three books that just might be the best thing you've ever read in your life, or (more likely) something that you'll quite enjoy and maybe even mention as decent to a friend or two -- but, before I tell you about them, I have to tell you about this:

I haven't read these books. I can give no opinion about their contents. But I can tell you what they say about themselves, and the indefinable air that each of them gives off, which is completely unnoticeable to the untrained eye. And so I begin.

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells is the latest anthology edited by the powerhouse team of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (sixteen annual volumes of Year's Best Fantasy & Horror; the influential series of fairy tale retellings that began with Snow White, Rose Red; a series of anthologies for the Young Adult market in recent years; not even to mention their individual achievements), which would be enough for most circumstances. But it's also an uber-steampunk anthology -- not pure steampunk, but encompassing all kinds of fantastic visions of the Victorian era, including but not limited to goggles, dirigibles, and combat parasols -- which are rather popular these days. And the nitpickers prone to criticize the gender balance of anthologies will have to find a new angle of attack, since a full fourteen of the eighteen writers or writing teams here are female. (Those eighteen include Elizabeth Bear, Tanith Lee, Delia Sherman, Jane Yolen, Catherynne M. Valente, and a few non-distaff types like Gregory Magurie, Jeffrey Ford, and James P. Blaylock.) Book of Spells is a Tor trade paperback, officially on sale this Tuesday.

Also from Tor, but not coming for another week, is the second book in the planetary adventure "Hellhole" series by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Hellhole Awakening. I didn't read the first one, but I can tell you that there's an exiled rebel general named Adolphus, a ruler called Diadem Michelle Duchenet, a Deep Zone, something called a shadow-Xayan settlement, and, of course, the planet named Hellhole, which will never not make me think of this:

And last for this week is the new novel by much-in-the-news Orson Scott Card: The Gate Thief, the sequel to The Lost Gate. It looks like Card's take on contemporary fantasy, with a teenaged hero who is the scion of a long line of gatemages, with special secret powers that allow them to control access to magical otherworlds (or something vaguely similar to that). Presumably, our hero will be staunchly heterosexual, for those to whom such things are deeply important. This is also from Tor, and will be officially available tomorrow. 

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