The Forgotten Girl

Fantasy author Rio Youers’s latest, THE FORGOTTEN GIRL, combines elements of the supernatural with mystery in a surprisingly satisfying blend that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

The protagonist, Harvey Anderson, enjoys a peaceful life as a street performer in New Jersey. Then one day Harvey is abducted and brutally beaten by a group of thugs. The thugs and their leader, known only as “the spider” demand Harvey tell them the whereabouts of Harvey’s girlfriend, Sally Starling.

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The Fall of the House of Cabal

fallhousecabalFor fans of Jonathan L. Howard’s JOHANNES CABAL books, I’m sure you know what to expect, and you’ve already purchased the latest installment.

As for the rest of you, here’s a litmus test, of sorts. The acknowledgments page at the end of Jonathan L. Howard’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF CABAL states:

I acknowledge nothing, but the burnished shine of my own golden genius

If that line didn’t make you smile, then probably this series is not for you. But perhaps that’s not enough to judge. Try this section from the beginning of the book:

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The Dragon Round

dragonroundI’m not a fan of high fantasy. I’ve admitted this in previous reviews. But I’m a sucker for revenge stories.

Some of my favorite books include THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, THE STARS MY DESTINATION, and RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK. So when Stephen S. Power’s THE DRAGON ROUND was recommended to me as a “cross between THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and GAME OF THRONES … well, I decided I had to give it a try.

I can’t speak to the comparison to GAME OF THRONES because I’ve never read the books or watched an episode of the series (I know, I know, it’s great. I have to watch it. Blah, blah, blah…). The only thing I know is that the series contains dragons, incest, and lots of deaths. THE DRAGON ROUND had two of those things, so I suppose the comparison is apt. It also has a plot that is equal parts THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY:

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The Everything Box

everythingbox“Oh, thank God.”

That was the thought I had about a quarter of the way through Richard Kadrey’s THE EVERYTHING BOX. Allow me to explain:

I’ve been a fan of Kadrey’s SANDMAN SLIM series since its beginning, but I’ve been somewhat disappointed in the last few books. A feeling of stagnation has set in, with the stories falling into familiar patterns and a general sense of the characters (and the series overall) not progressing. In essence, I’ve felt the series has fallen into a rut.

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Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories

perchancedreamFans of the original TWILIGHT ZONE TV series know Charles Beaumont as one of Rod Serling’s in-house teleplay writers. But Beaumont was also a prolific short story author who, along with friends like Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, formed “The Southern California Group” of speculative fiction writers who consulted and encouraged each other during their early careers.

Unfortunately, following his untimely death at 38 years old (from a brain disease little known at the time but today thought to be an early form of onset Alzheimer’s), published collections of Beaumont’s superb stories went quickly out of print and are nearly impossible to find.

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The End of the Story: The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Volume 1

endstoryIn the first of five volumes, Night Shade Books brought the works of a classic fantasist to a new generation with THE END OF THE STORY: THE COLLECTED FANTASIES OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH, VOLUME 1, first published in 2007 but now in a trade-paperback reprint edition. Putting the stories in chronological order is the right idea to do, but having read any of Smith’s works before, it left me a little bewildered.

A frequent contributor to WEIRD TALES, Smith has been compared to Edgar Allan Poe and as a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. But as I read these stories, it became quite clear that Poe was the heaviest influence. That’s not to say all these stories take place in days of yore, though there is a healthy serving of that type.

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Killing Pretty

killingprettyBack in 2009, Richard Kadrey made a large splash on the urban fantasy scene with SANDMAN SLIM, the story of a guy who escapes from Hell after 11 years with some cool weapons and newfound abilities, and goes on a revenge-fueled rampage against the people who sent him there. The book was violent, over-the-top, and definitely a shot in the arm for the staid fantasy scene … like Harry Potter injected with sex, drugs, rock and roll, horror comics, and Hong Kong action flicks. For me, of course, it was love at first sight.

Six years and seven books later, what was once a breath of fresh air is starting to smell as stale as the chicken I cooked last week.

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fiddleheadCherie Priest first became known for her Eden Moore series, a Southern Gothic set in contemporary times that featured the walking dead. Lately, she’s kept the walking dead but changed the background into a steampunk Clockwork Century alternative history that has an intriguing conceit, culminating in the book under review, FIDDLEHEAD.

Instead of the North winning the Civil War, the South has managed to fight to a stalemate. Neither side is winning, both sides are losing. Lincoln is out of office to be replaced by Ulysses Grant who is in the midst of his third term as war continues to be waged. A third party, the Texians, exists outside of either realm. Though not much in evidence in this book, they are rightly described as “tricky.”

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Trigger Warning

triggerwarningNeil Gaiman takes the title of his third collection of short fiction (joining SMOKE AND MIRRORS and FRAGILE THINGS) from the Internet term that warns of images or content that might upset readers: TRIGGER WARNING. He extends the meaning to everyday life and, as he expresses it in the Introduction, “those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming.”

That’s the effect of the 24 pieces gathered together here in Gaiman’s strongest and most varied short fiction collection yet. And as his many loyal fans know, Gaiman is so much fun to read that we are more than willing to drop through all these dangerous trapdoors.

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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

naturaldragonsMarie Brennan’s A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS: A MEMOIR BY LADY TRENT attempts an interesting conceit: to be written in the style of early twentieth century nature adventures. In those days, these naturalist colonialists would visit some remote part of the world and share their thoughts on the area’s wildlife, both human and non.

(Examples abound, but this gives me the opportunity to recommend Gordon MacCreagh’s WHITE WATERS AND BLACK, a raucous romp through the Amazon that will cure you of ever wanting to go on an adventure.)

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