Guest Post: “Working Out The Rules of Interstellar Travel” by Gareth L. Powell

Today the BiblioSanctum is pleased to welcome author Gareth L. Powell, author of Embers of War, the first in a three part science fiction series described to be perfect for fans of Ann Leckie, Alastair Reynolds and Adrian Tchaikovsky! The central character of the novel is a sentient starship, called the Troubled Dog. Following a brutal war and disgusted at herself for the role she played in the atrocities, she decides to atone by joining an organization dedicated to helping out ships in distress. Together with her new crew led by Sal Konstanz, a captain who actually once fought against Troubled Dog, they set out to investigate reports of a lost ship in a disputed system, hoping to save as many as they can. Published by Titan Books, Embers of War is now available wherever books are sold, so be sure to check it out! In the meantime, please enjoy this guest post by Mr. Powell on a most fascinating space opera topic – starships and space travel!

by Gareth L. Powell

Space travel is one of the staples of science fiction. Characters move from one planet to another. They set out into the starry unknown in search of adventure, glory, or vengeance—but as a writer, knowing how their starships work has a profound effect on the type of story we’re trying to write.

For instance, our first decision—whether our spaceships can fly faster-than-light or not—dictates the timescale of our story. If we decide to stick with the currently accepted laws of physics, it’s likely our heroes will have to enter some form of cryogenic sleep in order to prevent them dying of old age before they reach their destination. And if their journey takes more than a couple of decades, the world they left will be profoundly changed by the time they return, and some of their friends will have died in the interim.

Good examples of this temporal displacement can be found in Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, and A Deepness In The Sky by Vernor Vinge.

However, if you’d like to move your characters from one place to another on a scale of days or weeks rather than centuries, you’re going to have to invent some sort of faster-than-light drive.

But, just as fantasy writers have to invent rules and limitations for the way magic works in their worlds, so SF authors have to work out a set a guidelines for how their spaceships behave. After all, if a ship can just go anywhere in the galaxy in the blink of an eye, there would be no way to defend planets or bases from attack. Hostile armadas could pop into orbit, unload a thousand warheads, and be a hundred light years away before the first one had exploded. Space battles would be impossible if ships could just leap away at any second. And how would economies function if you could import fresh produce from Betelgeuse as cheaply as buying it from the farm up the road?

Now, before you panic, I’m not asking you to describe exactly how your starship’s jump drives actually work. If you knew that, you wouldn’t have to write a book, as NASA would currently be showering you with money and asking you to build one! Instead, I’m suggesting you come up with some limitations. After all, you don’t have to be able to describe the inner workings of an internal combustion engine in order to know that your average car can’t travel at 8,000 mph or operate under water.

Classic ways of limiting FTL include putting upper limits on the distance a ship can jump at any one time, and forbidding jump engines from working inside a planet’s gravity well. In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s classic first contact doorstop, Mote In God’s Eye, resonances between stars mean jump engines only work if activated at a particular point within a system. In the TV series Babylon 5, most ships have to use a network of star gates, and only the largest ships have the power to open their own ‘gates’ into hyperspace. In both cases, it becomes possible to blockade a star system by occupying the jump point or star gate—and it can also lead to thrilling chases and battles, as ships try to slog across the system to reach the next gate or jump point. This kind of travel forms the basis of Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, in which the remnants of a defeated navy have to travel the long way back through occupied territory, jumping from one system to the next while trying to avoid dead ends and ambushes.

In my new novel, Embers of War, I allow ship to take shortcuts through the ‘higher dimensions’—a place where the usual laws of physics are mutable and the speed of light can be exceeded. I liken the process to a dolphin leaping out of the water into the air. For a moment it finds itself moving through a different medium, where it moves faster because the water no longer drags on it.

However, in order to give my characters time to interact and get to know each other, I’ve had to impose a speed limit on higher dimensional travel. It isn’t instantaneous. In order to make the jump, a ship has to build up speed, kind of like the Delorean in Back To The Future. Then, once it’s in the hypervoid, its engines power it forward at roughly five light years per day. This means journeys can take days or weeks, and regular fuel stops need to be made to keep the engines powering the ships forward.

Whatever you decide, the way your starships move will shape your story, for good or ill. But learning to live with the limitations you impose will help make your story more interesting and authentic, and give your characters more obstacles to overcome.


Gareth L. Powell is an award-winning author from the UK. His alternate history thriller, Ack-Ack Macaque won the 2013 BSFA Award for Best Novel, spawned two sequels, and was shortlisted in the Best Translated Novel category for the 2016 Seiun Awards in Japan. His short fiction has appeared in a host of magazines and anthologies, including Interzone, Solaris Rising 3, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, and his story ‘Ride The Blue Horse’ made the shortlist for the 2015 BSFA Award.

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell is published by Titan Books. You can find Gareth on Twitter @garethlpowell


YA Weekend: Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of The Honors

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 13, 2018)

Length: 480 pages

Author Information: Rachel Caine | Ann Aguirre

At first glance, I thought Honor Among Thieves was going to read like your typical paint-by-numbers Young Adult novel, but there were actually plenty of surprises to be had, and in the end I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

The story, which takes place in the distant future of 2142, follows a teenager named Zara Cole, whose debilitating headaches as a child caused a schism between her and her family. After a traumatic experience, she became estranged from her parents and refused to relocate to Mars with her mother and sister, preferring to remain by herself on the mean streets of New Detroit. Although the world has seen a number of technological advancements since the arrival of the Leviathan, a race of sentient space ships that bestowed their vast knowledge on humanity, Zara has access to very few comforts, reduced to thieving in order to stay alive. But one day, she steals from the wrong person, landing her in the crosshairs of a dangerous man. Having already survived one attempt on her life, Zara decides to get herself booked into a detention center for wayward youth, thinking she’ll be safe behind jail walls.

What she did not expect, however, were the Leviathan. Each year, the aliens select a hundred individuals from the human population to join them in space in a kind of “exchange program” meant to promote and further relations between the two species. Called “Honors”, those who have taken part in the past have included great minds like artists, musicians, scientists, military strategists, and more. Never once have they called for someone like our protagonist, a petty thief from one of the lowest echelons of society, so it was a surprise to everyone when the Leviathan decided to name her an Honor. But while it is a dream come true for many, for Zara, the idea of being stuck in the belly of what is essentially a giant space whale for a whole year is just about the worst thing she can imagine. Still, when the alternative is to stay on Earth where her vengeful enemy can get to her anytime, the opportunity to get off planet is starting to look like her best chance for survival.

What follows is an exciting, but also at times emotional, narrative detailing Zara’s time on board Nadim, her Leviathan. As an alien race, these sentient ships are an interesting concept. They are first and foremost explorers, traveling through deep space to discover new worlds, offering their inhabitants the same proposal they gave Earth: partner with the Levianthan by letting them recruit their best and brightest for a year, so that each species would be able to share the knowledge and learn from each other. At the end of this period, Honors can also choose to join the Leviathan in a more long-term arrangement called the “Journey”, though few have gone down this path since it effectively means cutting off all ties from their home planet forever. Still, through this process, the Leviathan have rescued countless worlds, including Earth, from the brink of destruction and extinction. They are understood to be benevolent overseers who only want to help.

All this is thrown into question, however, in the time Zara spends with Nadim. Along for the ride is also another Honor named Beatriz, and over the course of the novel the three of them end up forming a tight and long-lasting bond. I loved them all, including Nadim, who is obviously nothing like your usual protagonist. Bizarre and otherworldly as he is, there’s also a familiarity about his character and situation. Like his passengers, he is young and inexperienced, desperate to prove himself. There are a lot of things about his fellow Leviathan that he doesn’t understand, so in many ways, he’s learning as he goes along, together with Zara and Bea.

There is also no romance per se in Honor Among Thieves, though Zara’s connection with Nadim is something unique and, in my opinion, so much more special than any conventional relationship. Not only is this type of bond new and different, it is also very unusual and a little eerie, which immediately piqued my curiosity to find out more. In fact, it was what drove me to keep reading, even through some of the slower paced sections in the first half of the novel which were less eventful action-packed. Because of the new ideas and the increasingly deepening friendships between Zara, Bea, and Nadim, I really never found myself bored.

Because of this, I would say my experience with Honor Among Thieves was a definite win. I got what I wanted in a new and different space adventure featuring cool aliens and complex characters who go on to form beautiful and meaningful relationships. The story also gradually builds to an exciting climax which comes complete with fast-paced action and the kind of space battles you just don’t get to see every day. If this is an indication of where the series is going, sign me up for the next one.

Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every other weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I round up what I’ve read since the last update and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

There’s been a surge of activity in my mailbox these last two weeks, to the point where I haven’t really been able to keep up with the cataloging of new arrivals so the rest will have to be posted next Roundup. In the meantime though, here’s some of what’s been added to my shelves lately. My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and for more details and full descriptions of the books, be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages!

I was so excited earlier this month when Disney-Hyperion reached out with an offer of City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts for review. The first book was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed myself so much that even a year later I still find myself thinking about the characters and wondering what will happen to them. I’m thrilled that the sequel is in my hands now that I’ll find out soon. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.

The kind folks at Orbit also surprised me with a couple of ARCs last week; first up is 84k by Claire North, a sci-fi crime novel that is looking as mind-bendingly awesome as a lot of North’s other works. I didn’t have a really good time with her last book, so I hope I’ll have better luck with this one. Then a few days later The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso showed up on my doorstep, which was very timely because I recently read the first book The Tethered Mage and it was oh so good! Really looking forward to diving into this sequel.

From Saga Press and the amazing Wunderkind PR team I also received a finished copy Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel. I loved this book, and here’s my review with all the reasons why, in case you missed it!

Next up are a couple of finished copies from Del Rey, both of which were surprise but welcome arrivals. I already had plans to read Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins and actually got started with the book today, so I should be well into it or hopefully done by the time this post goes live. Tarnished City by Vic James is the second book of the Dark Gifts series and sequel to Gilded Cage which admittedly I struggled with last year, so only time will tell if I’ll be able to get to it. I did hope to give the second book a chance though, so I’m glad to have it on hand.

With thanks to Tor Books, I also received City of Lies by Sam Hawke. This epic fantasy debut has been on my radar for a while, so I was pretty excited to get an ARC!

A couple weeks ago I was also surprised with a hardcover of This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong because to my knowledge I’d never gotten any review copies from Minotaur Books before. I happen to be a huge fan of the series though, and I thought this third installment was amazing. You can check out more of my thoughts in my review of the book here.

Also thanks to Subterranean Press for the following ARCs: Blood’s A Rover by Harlan Ellison is a return to Vic and Blood in the author’s 1969’s Nebula Award-winning “A Boy and His Dog”, which uses revised and expanded versions of the novella and short stories to assemble the full story. I was also super excited to receive Mira’s Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold, a Penric and Desdemona novella. I love these books, and as a bonus, this one is also the direct follow up to Penric’s Mission which I just recently read.

From DAW Books I also received Aliens Abroad by Gini Koch which unexpected to say the least. According to Goodreads, it’s the sixteenth installment in the series and I’ve never read any of the previous books so I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get to this! Another package that arrived from the publisher was something I was familiar with, though: Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe by Marshall Ryan Maresca is the second novel of The Streets of Maradaine which is so far my favorite of the author’s Maradaine series, so I’m looking forward to reading more.

And finally, rounding things up is a finished copy of Blade and Bone by Jon Sprunk with thanks to Pyr Books. It’s the third volume of the Book of the Black Earth series and I’ve only read the first book so I’m a bit behind!




Another Roundup, another amazing batch of eARCs from! Void Black Shadow by Corey J. White is the second book in the Voidwitch Saga, a sci-fi thriller series about a genetically-manipulated psychic supersoldier. I’m also excited to check out Time Was by Ian McDonald because I’m a big fan of the author and this one sounds like a powerful story. Black Helicopters by Caitlín R. Kiernan also sounds like an interesting novella, about an invisible war fought at the fringes of our world with a strong touch of Lovecraftian horror. And Outbreak by Melissa F. Olson is the third volume of the Nightshades series which I’m actually quite interested in, but I haven’t had the chance to start the first book yet.

Last week I was also sent an eARC of The Night Dahlia by R.S. Belcher by Tor Books along with an invitation to join a blog tour, so be sure to be on the look out for that later this spring! The novel is the sequel to Nightwise, an urban fantasy of gritty dark magic. I really liked it and am quite excited to continue the series.

And only one NetGalley acquisition this week! I saw that Saga Press had put up Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse and just could not resist hitting the download button. I’m very much looking forward to this book and I hope it’ll be as good as it sounds.

From Edelweiss I also on impulse requested The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara from Sky Pony Press, based purely on my interest in the subject matter. This is a YA historical fiction about Mary Reade, who along with Anne Bonny are two of the most famed female pirates of all time.

And in the audiobook pile, I just have a couple review copies with thanks first to Listen Library for Genesis by Brendan Reichs which is the sequel to Nemesis, a YA sci-fi thriller I read last year. I had some mixed feelings for the first book, but the story was so intriguing that I confess I’m kind of curious about what’s going to happen next. Finally, from Audible Studios I received A Dragon of A Different Color by Rachel Aaron which is the penultimate book in one of my favorite series, and I need to catch up before the finale comes out in about a week!


A quick summary of the reviews I’ve posted since the last update:

Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel (4.5 of 5 stars)
Redemptor by Seth Skorkowsky (4 of 5 stars)
Semiosis by Sue Burke (4 of 5 stars)
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (4 of 5 stars)
Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira (3.5 of 5 stars)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (3.5 of 5 stars)
Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon (2.5 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Read Since the Last Update

Here’s what I’ve “unstacked” from the TBR since my last roundup post. Most have been reviewed already, and the rest will be coming soon.



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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Friday Face-Off: Staircase

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“There are too many steps in this castle, and it seems to me they add a few every night, just to vex me”
~ a cover featuring a STAIRCASE

Mogsy’s Pick:
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is side novella about Auri, a secondary character from the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s a gorgeously written novel, both haunting and whimsical at once if such a thing is possible. It also offers an incredibly detailed exploration into one of series’ most fascinating and mysterious characters as she makes her way through the ancient and labyrinthine halls of the Underthing. But this story wont’ be for everyone; like all magic, the charm of Auri’s unique way of viewing even the most mundane objects around her as special and amazing will eventually wear off. Hers is a silent and lonely world that, while not completely devoid of color or life, loses its allure after a while.

Opinions of this polarizing novella aside though, we’re here to look at the different covers it has to offer, so let’s bring them out now:

From left to right, top to bottom:
DAW (2014) – Gollancz (2014)
Portuguese Edition (2015) – Bulgarian Edition (2015) – Serbian Edition (2015)
German Edition (2015) – Russian Edition (2015) – Romanian Edition (2017)





Cool colors like grey-blues and pale purples are clearly the dominant theme this week, and the result are some gorgeously atmospheric and moody covers. As you can see though, it can also be a little claustrophobic, especially in the images that depict tight stairways. Personally, I prefer a cover that visually opens up the space, like those that show Auri looking out over the city. As such, I’m going to have to go with the Serbian Edition for my winner.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Audiobook Review: Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 2 of Vatta’s Peace

Publisher: Audible Studios (February 6, 2018)

Length: 14 hrs and 26 mins

Author Information: Website

Narrator: Brittany Pressley

Believe me, no one is more surprised and disappointed than I am in my rating. I loved the first book in the series, Cold Welcome. When I found out that Into the Fire was supposed to be a direct sequel, exploring the aftermath of Ky Vatta’s extraordinary tale of survival on an icy inhospitable island and her subsequent discovery of secret arctic facility, I was excited. However, it turned out to be very different; rather than carrying on with the adventure narrative, the story turned towards politics, history, and more family drama instead.

Following the events of Cold Welcome, Ky has returned to her home planet of Slotter Key, hoping to bring all her findings to light, including the truth of the assassination attempt on her life and the secret base she found on that remote island. But those who want to keep her quiet also have a long reach, and before long, Ky finds herself embroiled in a vast conspiracy against her family. All her carefully gathered evidence disappears, and the survivors she fought alongside with are captured, drugged, or silenced. Someone with immense power in her own government is hell bent on stopping her, even if it means going after those she cares about. Though the odds are not on her side, Ky must use all her remaining resources to outwit the plotters and expose the shadowy forces aligned against her.

While I doubt not having read Vatta’s War (Moon’s other series set in the same universe) impacted my enjoyment of Cold Welcome, something tells me the same cannot be said for Into the Fire. This sequel delves deeply into the Vatta family history, especially when it comes to the checkered past of Grace Vatta, Slotter Key’s Rector of Defense. There is clearly a bigger story here behind her relationship with Ky, which is only lightly covered here because the narrative seems to assume the reader is aware of all the details already. That said, I’m not holding this against the book for something I should have been prepared for, but for me it was still a disappointing change of pace following the action-oriented and suspenseful survival adventure that was the first book.

I was also left feeling a bit dissatisfied with the smaller role Ky had in this book. Not only do we shift the focus from a survival adventure to a more political and bureaucratic drama, our protagonist also relinquishes much of her page time so that the story could explore a few other characters like Grace and Stella instead. Though I enjoyed Moon’s characterizations for the most part, especially her strong and independent women, the plot’s themes of domestic matters and government conspiracies were still a far cry from the heart-stopping excitement I felt from reading Cold Welcome. In truth, I spent of most of the book trying to stay focused, an effort made harder by the fact I found some of the plot threads confusing and difficult to follow.

That said, Into the Fire is not a bad book; it was simply not at all what I expected, though this is through no fault of the novel or the author. There’s still plenty of suspense to be had, but rather than your hectic space battles and harrowing tales of survival, we’re dealing with action and drama set in a completely different arena. Those who have read Vatta’s War will probably appreciate this deeper look into the family history and relationships between Ky and those close to her, but if enjoyed Cold Welcome and were expecting this sequel to be similar, then you’ll be disappointed.

At the end of the day, I still want to read more by Elizabeth Moon because I think she’s a great writer with exceptional talent in characterization and story craft, but I confess that I was perhaps a bit too hasty in jumping into this book. For the next one I’ll probably wait to find out more about the story’s themes and topics before picking it up, or wait until I’ve gone back to read the first five books in Vatta’s War before continuing.

Audiobook Comments: Brittany Pressley reprises her role as narrator for the audio edition of this second installment of Vatta’s Peace, once again delivering a solid performance. While I did not enjoy the story of Into the Fire as much as I did Cold Welcome, Pressley’s narration itself was exemplary. In fact, this dialogue-heavy novel probably presented an even greater challenge than the first book, but she pulled it off flawlessly.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Cold Welcome (Book 1)

Waiting on Wednesday 02/21/18

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Devil Sharks by Chris Jameson (June 26, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press)

Last year, I had SO. MUCH. FUN with Chris Jameson’s Shark Island. It was everything I wanted in a shark book – a mix of horror, violence and gory shark action balanced with a great story and well-rounded, diverse characters. Imagine my excitement when I found out about Devil Sharks! It appears it’ll be a whole new story unrelated to Shark Island, but as long as there are rampaging sharks, I’m happy.

“A pleasure cruise in Paradise leads to a group of friends to a shark-infested Hell… 

When Alex Simmons is invited to a college reunion in the Hawaiian Islands aboard the private yacht of his old pal Harry Curtis, he is not sure what to expect. The two men had a falling-out years ago over the suicide of one of their friends. Could this be Harry’s way of making amends? Or is something more sinister in store?

The crew sets sail and arrives at Orchid Atoll, the site of a deserted former Coast Guard station. But they are far from alone. Out here, three hundred miles from civilization, Alex and his friends are about to encounter two very different brands of evil–one human, the other with fins–unlike anything they could have possibly imagined. They have entered a place where there’s no law, no mercy… and no way out.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, a weekly meme that now resides at That Artsy Reader Girl. The meme first came about because of a love of lists. Who doesn’t love lists? The original creators also wanted their lists to be shared with fellow book lovers and to ask that we in turn share ours with them and connect with other book bloggers. To learn more about participating, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!

This week’s topic: Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Mogsy’s Picks

As a book lover, it always sucks to have to write a post like this, but let’s face it: there’s NEVER going to be enough time to get to all the stuff I want to read. Sometimes you just have to be picky, and as the popular book blogger adage goes, life’s too short for bad books or books that you’re no longer interested in.

A couple weeks ago, I put together this list of books that have been on my TBR for a long time (but that I still want to read) for Top Ten Tuesday, in which I also wrote about cleaning up my Goodreads to-read shelf. Part of this process involved removing books that had been there for so long that chances are unlikely that I would ever get to them, which included series I planned to abandon or books that I simply did not want to read anymore. The following are some of those books that did not make the cut. What do you think, though? Was I too hasty in removing any of these? Are there some that I should be reconsidering? Let me know in the comments.

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

There was such a long time between the second book and this one, that when it finally released it hit me that I didn’t actually feel invested enough in the story to find out how the trilogy will end. 

“The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?

The Twelve have been destroyed and the terrifying hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew—and daring to dream of a hopeful future.

But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy—humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.

One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.”

God’s War by Kameron Hurley

This was one of the first books I ever added to Goodreads, but after reading some of Hurley’s more recent work, I realized I didn’t really enjoy her writing style, so I doubt I’ll ever go back to this one.

“Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn’t make any difference…

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on…

There’s not a chance in hell of ending it. 

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx’s ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war–but at what price? 

The world is about to find out.”

Dangerous Women edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

I’m not the biggest anthology fan in the first place, and after seeing a lot of the mixed reviews pointing out the unevenness of quality in some of these stories, I don’t think I’ll be reading this collection after all.

“All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities — including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R.R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women — heroines and villains alike — by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn, S.M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.”

Feverborn by Karen Marie Moning

I loved the first five books of the Fever series and was so excited when it seemed Dani O’Malley was getting her own spin-off. But apparently, we’ve gone back to Mac. I’ve had enough of her already! I’d added this book to my TBR out of habit, but I was so irritated with the previous book and the direction it took the story and characters, I think I’m done with this series.

When the immortal race of the Fae destroyed the ancient wall dividing the worlds of Man and Faery, the very fabric of the universe was damaged and now Earth is vanishing bit by bit. Only the long-lost Song of Making—a haunting, dangerous melody that is the source of all life itself—can save the planet.

But those who seek the mythic Song—Mac, Barrons, Ryodan and Jada—must contend with old wounds and new enemies, passions that burn hot and hunger for vengeance that runs deep. The challenges are many: The Keltar at war with nine immortals who’ve secretly ruled Dublin for eons, Mac and Jada hunted by the masses, the Seelie queen nowhere to be found, and the most powerful Unseelie prince in all creation determined to rule both Fae and Man. Now the task of solving the ancient riddle of the Song of Making falls to a band of deadly warriors divided among—and within—themselves.

Once a normal city possessing a touch of ancient magic, Dublin is now a treacherously magical city with only a touch of normal. And in those war-torn streets, Mac will come face to face with her most savage enemy yet: herself.”

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice

Years ago, I used to be a big Anne Rice fan and read all of her books in The Vampire Chronicles. These days, I haven’t been following her so much. Her style seems to have changed, or maybe my tastes might have just evolved. I tried reading her new werewolf book a few years ago and thought it was okay, but thinking back now I can hardly remember what happened in the story, so I just removed this sequel from my TBR.

“It is winter at Nideck Point. Oak fires burn in the stately flickering hearths, and the community organizes its annual celebration of music and pageantry. But for Reuben Golding, now infused with the Wolf Gift, this promises to be a season like no other. He’s preparing to honor an ancient Midwinter festival with his fellow Morphenkinder—a secret gathering that takes place deep within the verdant recesses of the surrounding forests. 
However, Reuben is soon distracted by a ghost. Tormented, imploring, and unable to speak, it haunts the halls of the great mansion, drawing him toward a strange netherworld of new spirits, or “ageless ones.”  And as the swirl of Nideck’s preparations reaches a fever pitch, they reveal their own dark magical powers.”

Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen

Some of the mixed reviews I seen for this one have been worrying, since I adored the first book Wake of Vultures. I’m anxious about continuing the series because the abrasive personality of the main character appears to be the focus of many of the criticisms, which is why I’ll probably just stop here and keep my fond memories of the first book. 

Monsters, magic and the supernatural combine in this sequel to Wake of Vultures, in which a young woman must defeat the evil hiding beneath the surface.

Nettie Lonesome made a leap – not knowing what she’d become. But now the destiny of the Shadow is calling.

A powerful alchemist is leaving a trail of dead across the prairie. And the Shadow must face the ultimate challenge: side with her friends and the badge on her chest or take off alone on the dangerous mission pulling her inexorably toward the fight of her life.

When it comes to monsters and men, the world isn’t black and white. What good are two wings and a gun when your enemy can command a conspiracy of ravens?

Conspiracy of Ravens continues the exciting journey begun in Wake of Vultures as Nettie Lonesome discovers that she, and the world, are more than what they seem.”

Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton

Honestly, I have no clue why I kept this series on my TBR for so long. I mean, the first few books weren’t bad, but it’s been years since I last enjoyed an Anita Blake book. I’ve tried returning to this series multiple times, and it seems every time I do I just get burned. It’s taken many years and a whopping nine books, but I think it’s finally time to throw in the towel and admit to myself things aren’t going to miraculously get better again.

“There are a lot of monsters in Anita Blake’s life. And some of them are human. One such individual is the man she calls Edward, a bounty hunter who specializes in the preternatural. He calls her to help him hunt down the greatest evil she has ever encountered. Something that kills and maims and vanishes into the night. Something Anita will have to face alone…” 

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I confess, I added this one years ago at the height of this book’s hype. I kinda got swept into it at the time, even though I wasn’t really all that interested in another dystopia and the story didn’t exactly excite me. Looking at it now with a clear head, there might be a twinge of interest still lingering, but I doubt I’ll go out of my way to pick it up anytime soon. 

“If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.”

Deadline by Mira Grant

I recently came to the conclusion that while I enjoy the works of Seanan McGuire, I just can’t seem to get on board with the horror/thriller books that she writes under the name Mira Grant. A part of me is still curious about what happens in this series, but it’s been so long since I read Feed and I still haven’t picked up this sequel. I’m starting to think it’ll never happen. 

“Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn’t seem as fun when you’ve lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.”

Star Wars Legends by Various Authors

Let’s face it, there was a lot of stuff in the old Star Wars Expanded Universe that just wasn’t that great. Now with so much of it declared “Legends” and non-canon, I’ve lost what little motivation I had left in continuing many of the series I’d been stalled on, including The New Jedi Order and Fate of the Jedi. I recently removed a lot of old EU books from my TBR, and to be honest, I’m not too sorry about it. I’d much rather be focusing my attentions on the new canon novels, which I have been enjoying a lot more.

“From Wookieepedia: Star Wars Legends, formerly known as the Expanded Universe (abbreviated EU), encompasses every one of the officially licensed, fictional background stories of the Star Wars universe, outside of the original six Star Wars films produced by George Lucas and certain other material such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, created before April 25, 2014. It is derived from and includes most official Star Wars–related books, comic books, video games, spin-off films, television series, toys, and other media created before the date. This material expands and continues the stories told in the films, taking place anywhere from over 36,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 136 years after Return of the Jedi. The issue of which aspects are canon was one of the most hotly debated topics among fans.”

Review: Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Paperback: Harper Voyager; Audiobook: Harper Audio (February 13, 2018)

Length: Paperback: 304 pages; Audiobook: 7 hrs and 20 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer

When I first found out about Gunpowder Moon, I knew I had to read it. I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi mystery in space, and the novel’s lunar setting further sold me on it.

But this is not just another one of your simple murder mysteries, and the main protagonist is not your typical detective. It is the year 2072, and Caden Dechert is a former Marine heading up a US mining operation on moon. He’s a good leader, drawing from his war experience back on Earth as he mentors his team and takes the new recruits under his wing, teaching them all about safety and survival on the lunar surface. Anything from a small leak in a suit to a speck of moon dust getting in the machinery can lead to fatal results, and no one is more diligent or careful than Dechert when it comes protecting his crew.

So when an explosion occurs, killing one of his young miners, everyone is shocked. No one believes it to be an accident, and sure enough, an investigation finds clear signs of sabotage. There are plenty of suspects to go around, but the top brass arriving from Earth are quick to point fingers at the Chinese, who run a rival mining company near the Americans’ base of operations on the edge of the Sea of Serenity. Dechert, however, is not so sure. He knows tensions between the countries are already on edge, with both sides itching for a fight. Unwilling to jump to conclusions—and hoping to avoid an all-out war—he launches his own investigation in search for evidence.

It’s a straightforward enough story, and in fact, Gunpowder Moon is not a very long book, its streamlined plot leaving little room for much filler or downtime. The driving pace gave this novel the feel of a high-octane thriller, making it a very quick and easy read. If anything, I thought the narrative could have used some slowing down, especially during pivotal moments where the author could have furthered increased the tensions or emphasized suspense.

To Pedreira’s credit though, he didn’t skimp on characterization or world-building. Caden Dechert was a wonderful protagonist, well-written and fleshed out. I was able to sense his commitment to his work and to his crew in everything he said and did. I also enjoyed the flashbacks to his life in the military, fighting in the Middle East. These sections gave us a deeper understanding into his personality, as well as possible insight into why he valued the status quo on the moon. War on Earth was ugly, and Dechert would do anything to stop all that death and violence from coming into his new life.

Gunpowder Moon also painted an intriguing picture of lunar life. The desolate landscape notwithstanding, everything about the moon—sights, smells, tastes, and sounds—was described and brought to life in stunning detail. That said, it’s the social aspects I found even more compelling. An entirely different culture exists on the moon that newcomers from Earth would never understand, giving a whole different dynamic to the relationships between the characters. A code of honor among lunar residents was strongly implied, especially for the miners who put their lives on the line every day. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from; if someone was in need of help, people were always willing to give it, even if those involved were from a rival corporation or country. Thus, a murder meant that the killer had to be extremely motivated, a sticky fact that made Dechert’s quest for the truth that much more complicated and difficult.

No doubt, sci-fi fans seeking fast-paced action and clever intrigue would enjoy Gunpowder Moon. Ironically though, I found that the novel’s mystery plot actually played second fiddle to the wonderful depictions of the politics and culture of lunar life. But while the story could have been stronger, David Pedreira made up for it with excellent world-building and character development, which I felt were the book’s greatest strengths. An entertaining read overall.

Audiobook Comments: Time simply flew by as I listened to Gunpowder Moon, which featured a story that was well-suited to the audio format. Jeffery Kafer was a skilled narrator, successfully bringing out the tensions and excitement in the author’s storytelling. He seldom varied his voices for different characters though, which would have been my only criticism, but otherwise this audiobook was a great listen and I would recommend it.

YA Weekend: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 1

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (February 27, 2018)

Length: 544 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I enjoyed Tess of the Road more than I expected, but probably less than I had hoped. I wasn’t a big fan of Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina duology when I read it, but nevertheless felt optimistic about her new book because I have a love for “wanderlust” stories and the description of Tess as a “troublemaker” immediately piqued my interest.

To her credit, our protagonist was living up to that promise from the start. When she was a little girl, Tess was caught trying to stage a pretend marriage between her twin sister and cousin because she wanted to know where babies came from. Just a child’s innocent curiosity, perhaps—but it does foreshadow a lot more to come. Years pass, and all of Tess’s energies have turned towards helping her sister Jeanne find a good husband, having ruined her own prospects in the eyes of her family. Society now considers her “damaged goods”, and Tess is forced to hide her past like a shameful secret. Lashing out at Jeanne’s wedding, she winds up drinking too much and causing a scene, jeopardizing the entire marriage. Driven to her last nerve, her mother decides to send her to a convent, but before any arrangements could be made, Tess dons the disguise of a boy and runs away, taking to the road.

What follows is an almost episodic narrative that traces the ups and downs of Tess’s journey as she travels across the land, meeting new people and trying new experiences. It is also a deeply personal tale of self-discovery and coming to terms with one’s own past.

The problem, however, is the book’s structure, consisting of a present timeline with flashbacks inserted throughout, revealing the events which made Tess such a social pariah and why her own family holds her in such contempt. In truth, it is not hard to guess; as I said, there were plenty of hints provided in the early pages. But knowing exactly what happened makes Tess a more sympathetic character and easier to understand, and unfortunately, these important details are held back until late into the novel. In light of these revelations, Tess’s troubled personality is cast in a different light, but of course, by then it might be too late for readers who have already made up their minds about her character.

The “episodic” nature of Tess’s adventures also made the pacing feel uneven. Some parts of the story, especially in the middle of the novel, were slow and I had some difficulty trying to stay focused. Most of the time, I just found myself hoping for another flashback so that I could find out more about Tess’s past. To be fair, the book did pick up again near the end with the introduction of Josquin, though by then my attention had already been severely tested.

Finally, Tess of the Road is a very “mature” book, dealing with a lot of issues modern teens face today. Personally, this made the story a much more compelling read, though I fear these themes might lose a bit of their significance due to the fantasy context, or they could potentially become a mere distraction to those who rightfully just want a bit of escapism. In a way, some of the novel’s greatest strengths are also its biggest drawbacks, and the mixed response from the YA community now makes a lot more sense to me.

Despite some of my mixed feelings, I’m still very excited to read the sequel. The book ends on a high note just as things were becoming interesting, promising more excitement in Tess’s future. For better or worse, I don’t think the next volume will focus as much on our protagonist’s inner turmoil, considering how far she has come in this first book with regards to realizing her own self-worth. As long as Tess continues to travel and grow as a character though, I can definitely get behind a more adventurous and action-oriented sequel.

Audiobook Review: Redemptor by Seth Skorkowsky

I received a review copy from the author. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Redemptor by Seth Skorkowsky

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror

Series: Book 4 of Valducan

Publisher: Audible Studios (January 30, 2018)

Length: 9 hrs and 9 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: R.C. Bray

Redemptor is another fantastic addition to the Valducan series, becoming the fourth book to be published in the sequence, though I think any of the novels can be enjoyed as a standalone. That said, while each of the first three books have featured a different protagonist, this one breaks the pattern by swinging the focus back to Matt Hollis, the demon hunter whom we first met in Dämoren. Prospective readers who wish to get the full picture may want to tackle that one first, since Redemptor contains quite a few characters and references from book one.

Our story begins approximately three years after the events of Dämoren, which saw the defeat of Tiamat’s Cult at Matt Hollis’s hands. Matt is now married to Luiza, a fellow Valducan Knight, and they even have a daughter. But still, the war on demonkind continues, as does the hunt for more sacred weapons to add to the Valducan arsenal. These sentient weapons are the only things capable of destroying a demon, and the knights who wield them are also bonded to them for life, their minds, bodies, and souls becoming one with the angelic spirit within.

Understandably, everyone is concerned when grave news emerges from South America that someone has been trying to steal holy weapons from museums across the continent. An evil buried long ago has suddenly awakened, leaving a trial of death and destruction in its wake. Now even the paladins of the Catholic Church have stepped in to join the fight, offering to put aside their differences with the Valducans in order to help stop their common foe.

So far, each book in the series has expanded upon the world-building and mythology of holy weapons, and Redemptor was no exception. We also get to find out more about the inner workings of the Valducan. In the years since Dämoren, Matt has become an important member of the order, hunting demons with a team instead of being the lone wolf he once was. A bigger cast of characters opens up the book to multiple perspectives, giving the reader a fuller and more detailed picture of the relationships between the various knights, as well as the roles they play. I especially enjoyed the sections featuring Mei and her training sessions with her master, highlighting the importance of trust and friendship among the ranks. No matter who they are or where they come from, the members of the Valducan are like one big family.

But unlike the earlier books like Dämoren or Hounacier, which mainly followed a single hunter, we don’t get to know any one character as intimately in Redemptor. It’s also a very fast-paced and action-oriented novel, so there’s not as many opportunities for in depth characterization—another reason why it might be best to start this series from the beginning if you are a newcomer, so that you can get the foundation for Matt’s character from the first book. Existing fans, however, will most likely find this one to be the most exciting and action-packed installment yet. Matt and his friends are up against the most powerful and dangerous enemy they’ve ever faced, and once this plot gets going, it doesn’t stop.

This book also introduced Felisa, a formidable female paladin of the Vatican, and she was probably my favorite character. Religion tends to be a contentious subject in sci-fi and fantasy, and often, I find that the Church or religious figures in many of these stories are set up to be scapegoats or strawmen, which to me is just lazy writing, and then there are the blatant stereotypes of the zealot. In contrast, it was a breath of fresh air to meet someone like Felisa, who is a strong, positive force—merciless when dealing with demons, but who also has boundless compassion and support to give to people like Luiza’s mother, whose faith is a beautiful and integral part of her life. I hope this won’t be the last we see of Felisa, especially since I’m very interested to see how the partnership between her people and the Valducan will play out, now that the Catholic Church is an ally.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record by now, but simply put, this is a fantastic series and perfect for readers who enjoy their urban fantasy with some darkness and grit. Redemptor was another action-packed sequel featuring compelling characters and topnotch world-building. I can’t wait to read more Valducan.

Audiobook Comments: Certain narrators who make books a better listen than a read, and R.C. Bray is definitely one of them. I’ve been an admirer of his work ever since I listened to him read The Martian, and I love that he is also the voice of the Valducan series. He’s the kind of narrator who can adapt to anything he’s reading, and once again he was excellent with Redemptor, capturing the atmosphere and mood of the story, delivering a pitch-perfect performance.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Dämoren (Book 1)
Review of Hounacier (Book 2)
Review of Ibenus (Book 3)
Interview with Seth Skorkowsky
Guest Post: “You Can’t Hide Everything…So Don’t” by Seth Skorkowsky