Bookshelf Roundup 12/11/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every 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 summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week 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

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Another quick update this week as we barrel towards the holidays and things are looking a little quiet in the old inbox. With thanks to Forge Books for sending along an ARC of The Last Beekeeper by Julie Carrick Dalton which is set in a near-future world where bees have gone extinct, looking at the far-reaching consequence on a society’s agriculture, environment, economy, and politics.

Courtesy of Orbit, I also received an ARC of Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky, the third book in the Children of Time series. I loved the first two books, which I think are some of the author’s finest work, so I’m really looking forward to read this one.

Thank you also to the kind folks at Wunderkind PR and 47North for a review copy of The Union by Leah Vernon. This was a new one to me; a quick search on Goodreads shows it’s a sci-fi dystopian unique for its reverse racism themes and that it was originally self-published under the title Impure before being revised and re-released under its current title.

Only one new audiobook in the digital review haul this week. Thank you to Hachette Audio for an early listening copy of The Stolen Heir by Holly Black, the start of a new duology set in the same world as the author’s Elfhame series.

Reviews

The Hollows by Daniel Church (4 of 5 stars)
A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor (3 of 5 stars)
Raven Unveiled by Grace Draven (3 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

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!

Audiobook Review: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

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

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Short Stories, Horror

Series: Collection

Publisher: Random House Audio (November 8, 2022)

Length: 8 hrs and 17 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrators: C. J. Tudor, Richie Campbell, Dakota Blue Richards, Roy McMillan, Richard Armitage, Adam Sims

After reading her four novels, I’ve become quite the fan of C.J. Tudor, so when she released her first short story collection, I decided to throw caution to the wind and check out the audiobook edition of A Sliver of Darkness.

In the interest of full disclosure though, I’m not really a big reader of short fiction, and unfortunately, this collection reminded me why. I’m the type of reader who prefers to settle in with a book where the plot, setting, and characters are given plenty of time to develop, which in turn gives me the time to feel more connected to them. I can’t say I got that with most of the stories here, though it wasn’t a complete loss, as there were a few gems that stood out. All together there are eleven tales in this collection, but I will only comment on a handful in this review—mainly those that stood out to me, for better or worse.

We’ll begin with the stories that impressed me, and by far my favorite was “Runaway Blues”. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was also a favorite for many others as this one felt meatier and more substantial than a lot of the other stories in here. The author took the time to build up the creepy atmosphere so that when the ending revelation was finally revealed, she stuck a perfect landing. Huge props also to the narrator of this story, whose nailed the 1930s blues bar vibes and accents.

Another standout to me was “End of the Liner”. Imagine it’s the apocalypse and you’ve survived by spending last fifty years living in a dystopian society board a Disney-like cruise ship sailing endlessly around the world. Once a passenger reaches their 75th birthday though, they are forcibly “retired” in a macabre ceremony that involves the entire ship. This one was a great opener that set the tone for the rest of the offerings in this book, letting the reader know to expect the eerie, the twisted, and the uncanny.

I also really enjoyed “Completion” which was a surprise, since the main character in it was so thoroughly unlikeable! What I loved about it was so how unabashedly over-the-top it was, and the ending was so unexpectedly bizarre and steeped in dark humor that I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Butterfly Island” was a fun read too. No pretenses or anything too complicated about this one, which had B-horror movie vibes and could have been something more if it hadn’t ended so quickly and abruptly. But then, that was my one complaint about pretty much all of these.

In the end, I also didn’t find too many stories that were as memorable. I wouldn’t say any of them were bad, just too short to register as more than a blip and to be forgotten as soon as they were finished. Most of them fell into this category, like the “The Block”, “Dust”, or “Final Course”. All had great concepts, but like I said, a great concept alone won’t carry a story for me.

And finally, there were a couple stories that read more like thought experiments, and these simply did not do anything for me at all. “I’m Not Ted” immediately comes to mind, and in a way, so did “The Lion at the Gate.” Again, neat concept, but nope on the execution.

That said, one thing I do want to highlight about this collection, and what I thought was an amazing addition, was the author’s notes that preceded each story. In some cases, I enjoyed learning about the inspiration and process that went into writing the story more so than the story itself. Tudor is such a talented writer, and it was fascinating for me to see where she gets some of her ideas. As an extra bonus, Tudor narrated these forewords herself, which made them feel more personal, especially as some of her commentary included details of her family life. I’m still a big fan of her work, but I think I’ve had my fill of her short stories for now, and I’m much more excited about the fact that her next project will be another novel.

Book Review: The Hollows by Daniel Church

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

The Hollows by Daniel Church

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Angry Robot (November 8, 2022)

Length: 460 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I went into The Hollows without knowing much about the book beyond that it was a horror set in a remote English village in the middle of a snowstorm. What I expected was something more in line with a psychological suspense, but instead what I got reminded me very much of 30 Days of Night with a dash of Midnight Mass—a claustrophobic pulse-pounding thriller with a paranormal component and featuring religious themes of good versus evil in a war as old as time.

In the sleepy town of Barsall, it isn’t too uncommon to find a few bodies frozen in the snow every winter, usually of lost travelers who wandered too far from the trail or underestimated the dangers of the bitter cold. But the latest one Constable Ellie Cheetham is called in to investigate is something of a mystery. For one thing, the victim is a local named Tony Harper, a member of the village’s most notorious family of troublemakers. He also died close to home, clutching a knife in one hand as if he’d spent his final moments trying to fend off an attacker. And finally, Ellie finds a strange symbol etched in charcoal near his corpse, possibly a ritualistic marking.

Instead of answers, a visit to the Harper household only leads to more questions. Tony’s mother, the matriarch Liz Harper, was predictably angry and grief stricken when informed of her favorite son’s death, but in the older woman’s eyes, Ellie also thought she saw a flash of terror. Liz Harper appears to know more than she lets on about what killed Tony, and of the strange charcoal marking and what it means.

As you can imagine, because I went into The Hollows blind, I was thrown for a loop at how things turned out. It was definitely the best way to experience this book, to be surprised and thrown off guard by the revelations of what was plaguing Barsall. Cosmic horror combined with demonic forces made this one a more unique and intriguing experience than I was expecting.

The setting also did not disappoint. I love tales of terror of suspense set in cold remote places cut off from civilization or any chance of rescue when the shit hits the fan. It’s the main reason I jumped at the chance to read this book with nary a clue of its plot or premise. I’m happy to say author Daniel Church nailed the homely atmosphere of Barstall, where everyone knows each other’s business and barely any secrets can be kept. Despite the mundane nature of life there, it’s a down-to-earth and cozy existence, making the horror that befalls its citizens later in the book feel so much worse.

Speaking of which, most of the characters are stereotypical figures you’d find in a small-town story, but they’re well-written and memorable. Ellie is the no-nonsense, capable cop on the job, who takes her duties to serve and protect rather seriously. Keeping her on her toes is the Harper family out at the Barrowman Farm, led by the vile Liz Harper and her older sons who are little more than her thuggish henchmen. As horrible as they were, the Harpers hold the key to the story’s mystery, and I was fascinated to learn of the role they played in the overall conflict.

The writing was also impressive, if no literary masterpiece. Church’s prose is a good match for the genre and tone of the story, written in a cinematic style that proved effective especially in the final chapters. With action happening in several places all at once and the perspectives moving between all the different POV characters in quick succession, I could imagine the words on the page playing out like a movie in my mind. Some of the sequences were so lengthy and intense, in fact, that it was almost mentally exhausting.

If you’re looking for a snowbound horror that’s equal parts thrilling and entertaining though, The Hollows has got you covered. A gripping chiller for the winter season, it’s even better when you don’t know what’s coming.

Waiting on Wednesday 12/07/22

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

The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart (April 20, 2023 by Orbit Books)

The Bone Shard Daughter was hailed as “one of the best debut fantasy novels of the year” (BuzzFeed News). Now, Andrea Stewart brings us the final book in this unmissable, action-packed, magic-laced epic fantasy trilogy, The Bone Shard War.

Lin Sukai has won her first victory as Emperor, but the future of the Phoenix Empire hangs in the balance – and Lin is dangerously short of allies. 

As her own governors plot treason, the Shardless Few renew hostilities. Worse still, Lin discovers her old nemesis Nisong has joined forces with the rogue Alanga, Ragan. Both seek her death.  

Yet hopes lies in history. Legend tells of seven mythic swords, forged in centuries past. If Lin can find them before her enemies, she may yet be able to turn the tide.  
 
If she fails, the Sukai dynasty – and the entire empire – will fall.”

Book Review: Raven Unveiled by Grace Draven

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

Raven Unveiled by Grace Draven

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Series: Book 3 of Fallen Empire

Publisher: Ace Books (November 8, 2022)

Length: 336 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Raven Unveiled is the third book set in the Fallen Empire series by Grace Draven which takes place in the same world as Phoenix Unbound and Dragon Unleashed but follows a new set of characters and can be read as a standalone. Like the previous novels, this one is also a fantasy romance, this time focusing on Siora and Gharek. The former used to work in the latter’s household, caring for his young daughter Estred. Then Siora betrayed Gharek, forcing her to go on the run while he pursues her across the Kraelian empire. When the mad empress was still alive, Gharek was her cat’s-paw and right-hand man, but now he is a fugitive left with nothing but a burning vengeance to see Siora captured and punished for what she did to him.

Siora had her own reasons for betrayal, but she also is no stranger to being hunted. A shade speaker, she was born with the ability to commune with the dead and lately her spirits have been restless, warning her of a spectral predator that has been feeding on souls. With the ongoing war having claimed an untold number of lives, this monster has been gorging itself, growing stronger the more it consumes, threatening the very framework of both the mortal and ghostly realms. With all this hanging over Siora’s head, Gharek is the least of her troubles, though when the former assassin eventually catches up with her, the two find they have a common enemy and a common goal.

While I absolutely adored the first two installments in the series, sadly I can’t say I felt the same love for Raven Unveiled. To be fair, this wasn’t a bad book, but I know exactly why this one failed to enthuse me like the others did, and it comes down to the complete lack of chemistry between Siora and Gharek. Not gonna lie, it was a bit of a surprise for me, since Draven is usually pretty dependable when it comes to her romance writing. It could be as simple as being burned out by her “enemies to lovers” stories, as that’s generally the foundation for her books. Siora and Gharek’s relationship offered nothing truly exciting or surprising, and all the tension that was built up from him trying to kill her at the beginning was dispelled rather quickly whey they just decided to work together with hardly any pushback.

The story was also very dark, which you won’t normally find me complaining about. In this case, however, it does come at the expense of the romance. More plot-heavy than the other books, Raven Unveiled tells a good story, with characters who have interesting backgrounds, strong motivations, and very real problems to deal with. Neither Siora and Gharek can really catch a break with so much on their plates, yet we’re to believe the two of them still have the mental strength and energy to pursue a romance? It’s no wonder the interaction between them seemed strained, which overall made their relationship feel unconvincing to me.

That being said, the storytelling was strong, as I alluded to before. The world-building was also superb, introducing the element of Siora’s shade speaking abilities and the magic involved with it. And while reading the first two volumes isn’t a requirement, there are benefits for readers who have. Since all the books share the same world, we get to watch as it evolves and changes around the different protagonists—effects which are more often than not from the consequences of their predecessors’ actions.

Bottom line, Dragon Unveiled wasn’t the strongest of the books in Fallen Empire, not by a long shot. Still, I’d recommend it if you’ve become invested in the overall series or the setting and are curious to see how the wider story arc is developing. I’m mostly in this camp myself, though I’m also a big fan of Grace Draven’s work, and if she writes more in this series, I just hope the next romance will be more in line with my expectations.

More on The BiblioSantum:
Review of Phoenix Unbound (Book 1)
Review of Dragon Unleashed (Book 2)

Bookshelf Roundup 12/04/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every 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 summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week 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

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

A quick update this week! Big thanks to Orbit Books for review copies of The Cuckoo by Leo Carew and The Ivory Tomb by Melissa Caruso. Both are third books of their respective series, which I’m excited to continue.

With thanks to Penguin Workshop, I also received a review copy of Deadly Hearts by Michael Burgan, a middle grade nonfiction book featuring sixteen biographies of history’s most dangerous people. My daughter snatched this one up as soon as it arrived and read it in a single evening. In case you missed it, here’s her review!

Thank you also to Tordotcom for sending me an ARC of Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh. I’ve read and enjoyed her The Greenhollow Duology, so I’m looking forward to see what this one has in store.

It’s the first week of the month so I also picked up a few new listening copies. Courtesy of Hachette Audio, I received an ALC of Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky, the third installment of the Children of Time series. I loved the first two books, so here’s hoping this one will also be awesome. From Macmillan Audio, I also received All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham. I adored her book A Flicker in the Dark so I am beyond excited for this! And finally, thank you to Simon & Schuster Audio for a listening copy of A History of Fear by Luke Dumas, which sounds like an intense horror thriller.

Reviews

Deadly Hearts by Michael Burgan (5 of 5 stars) (Guest Review)
Flight Risk by Cherie Priest (4 of 5 stars)
Reckoning by W. Michael Gear (4 of 5 stars)

Roundup Hightlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

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!

Guest Review: Deadly Hearts by Michael Burgan

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This does not affect the contents of this review, and all opinions belong to the reviewer.

Today we have another guest review by my daughter Alexis, a fifth grader who would like to share with you her thoughts on Deadly Hearts: History’s Most Dangerous People by Michael Burgan with illustrations by Karl James Mountford. The following is her review, edited only for grammar and clarity, with my own notes added at the end.

Deadly Hearts by Michael Burgan, illustrated by Karl James Mountford

Alexis’ Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Middle Grade, History, Biography

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Penguin Workshop (December 27, 2022)

Length: 144 pages

Author Information: Website

Deadly Hearts by Michael Burgan is a history book about the world’s most dangerous people. Some are conquerors and some are mass murderers, but basically to be in this book, you have to have caused the deaths of many people. I’m usually into fiction, but when my mom asked if I wanted to read this, I said yes because it looked very interesting and gory, and I like history and dark stuff.

It didn’t turn out like I expected. It was better. The book had a lot more dangerous people in it than I thought, and there was more information than I thought. I learned a lot about history. There were sixteen biographies, some of them I’ve heard of before, others I haven’t.

For the people that were new to me, I was most fascinated by Elizabeth Bathory, who captured young girls, tortured them, and then bathed in their blood because she thought it would keep her young forever. I also liked learning about Attila the Hun, who ruled a whole empire by burning and killing his way across the continent. Before I read this book, I had also never heard of Pol Pot, who caused the deaths of millions of his own people.

I also found out a lot more about the people that I’ve already heard of, like Vlad the Impaler. I didn’t know he inspired Dracula. I’ve also heard of Alexander the Great and knew that he was a great conqueror but didn’t know that his father helped him a lot with his education and his army. My favorite historical subject is World War II, so I was also not surprised to see that Adolf Hitler was included in this book.

One thing I wish is that the biographies were a little longer. Many of them were only five or six pages long, and I wish it told you more details on how the person died. When I got curious, I had to ask my mom or look it up on my own. Did you know Robespierre was killed by guillotine which was the same way he executed others? Or that Tomas de Torquemada was one of the few people in this book who died of old age? Or that Atilla the Hun died on his wedding night by choking on his own nosebleed? This all would have been good to have in the book.

I really liked the illustrations. They were very detailed and gave me a better vision of the people and what was being described in their biographies. I don’t scare easily, or this book would have disturbed me more, but I think the level of detail was just right. It talked about the deadly things the people did, but these were mostly just a few paragraphs or so. Most of it was focused on their backgrounds and families and how they grew up and not really on gore. But I would still recommend this for more mature middle schoolers.

I liked this book so much, when I finished it I gave it to my reading and writing teacher, because I know she likes history. I give Deadly Hearts five stars.

Alexis

Note: When I showed my daughter this book, she promptly snatched it from my hands and started reading, and did not stop until she was finished which was merely a few hours later. While I’d suspected Deadly Hearts would be right up her alley, it still surprised me how much she took to this book, considering how these days she’s reading mostly fiction. 

For those curious, the full list of dangerous people featured in this book is as follows: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Tomas de Torquemada, Vlad the Impaler, Hernan Cortes, Queen Mary I of England, Ivan the Terrible, Elizabeth Bathory, Maximilien Robespierre, Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar, King Leopold II of Belgium, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin Dada, and Pol Pot.

All the biographies were written in a style that was objective, factually driven, and meant to inform. But as you can imagine, some of the details in them can be quite dark. My daughter has always been a more mature reader, both in her personality and her reading level, so I knew she’d process the information just fine, but just be aware that although the publisher/Amazon lists the reading level of Deadly Hearts at ages 8-12, I would probably recommend this for the higher end of that range.

Audiobook Review: Flight Risk by Cherie Priest

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

Flight Risk by Cherie Priest

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Booking Agents

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (November 15, 2022)

Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Ulka Simone Mohanty, Timothy Andrés Pabon

Flight Risk may be the second novel of The Booking Agents series, but protagonist Leda Foley is certainly spending a lot less time at her day job as a travel agent these days. Instead, she has taken to moonlighting as a private investigator, hoping to use the psychic angle as a way to drum up more side business. Her powers had proved helpful before, when she was a consultant for the Seattle police helping detective Grady Merritt solve a crime that had been stymying him, and this time, she might have even gotten a jump on them with her new case. Recently, a man had approached Leda asking for assistance in finding his sister. The woman had been gone for a month and her scum bucket of a husband hadn’t even reported her missing, and now her brother fears the worst.

Meanwhile, out on the remote trails of Mount Rainier, Grady has been frantically searching for his lost dog Cairo, who had wandered off the path while on a hiking trip a few days before. He eventually finds the wayward pet, but not without another surprise. Somewhere along on his adventure, Cairo had picked up a souvenir—a man’s severed leg. But who did it belong to? And where was the rest of them? As Grady sets off to find these answers, he is surprised to learn of a connection to Leda’s missing person case.

Cherie Priest is a very versatile author, and I’ve read everything from her young adult fiction to her steampunk and horror. But this series is probably my favorite of her projects yet.  There’s an oddball quality to The Booking Agents that I wouldn’t have expected from the author, but she tackles the humor and quirkiness like she was born to it. The characters are lovably eccentric, the stories just plain fun. Following in the footsteps of Grave Reservations, this sequel doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s quite honestly one of the most appealing traits about these books because I know I can pick them up and enjoy myself no matter what.

The plot of Flight Risk is also intriguing but also has this light-hearted cozy quality to it so you know things won’t get too dark—chewed up, dismembered body parts notwithstanding. In fact, most of what I loved about the first book carried into this one, not the least of these being the paranormal elements. Leda’s psychic powers remain a prominent focus, playing an even stronger role in almost every single step of the case. The characters have taken to calling them her “woo-woo vibes” which I thought was charming and hilarious, and of course I’m thrilled to report Klairvoyant Karaoke is also back! Oh how I wish that was truly a thing.

And if the mystery wasn’t as tightly knit in this sequel, at least the character development more than makes up for it. A regular cast has been established at this point, and so far, I’m having a blast with the interplay between the different personalities and all the quick and witty conversations coming out of these interesting dynamics. Leda and Grady’s partnership has become the cornerstone of this series and it is currently one built upon a foundation of friendship and professional respect. Readers hoping for a romance will be disappointed, but I for one found this to be a breath of fresh air.

I also returned to the audio format for Flight Risk, after the amazing experience I had with the audiobook of Grave Reservations. Ulka Simone Mohanty reprises her role as narrator while Timothy Andres Pabon joins in this time as well for Grady’s chapters, a much welcome addition to bring out the energy in characters and their affable relationship. I hope there will be a third book, and I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to grab the audiobook again.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Grave Reservations (Book 1)

#ScifiMonth Waiting on Wednesday 11/30/22

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

Hopeland by Ian McDonald (February 14, 2023 by Tor Books)

A time-traveling, futuristic saga of a family trying to outlast and remake a universe with a power unlike any we’ve seen before.

When Raisa Hopeland, determined to win her race to become the next electromancer of London, bumps into Amon Brightbourne–tweed-suited, otherworldly, guided by the Grace–in the middle of a London riot, she sets in motion a series of events which will span decades, continents and a series of events which will change the world.

From rioting London to geothermal Iceland to the climate-struck islands of Polynesia, from birth to life to death, from tranquillity to terror to joy, Raisa’s journey will encompass the world. But one thing will always be true.

Hopeland is family–and family is dangerous.”

* All SciFi Month artwork courtesy of Simon Fetscher.

#SciFiMonth Book Review: Reckoning by W. Michael Gear

Reckoning by W. Michael Gear

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 6 of Donovan

Publisher: DAW (October 25, 2022)

Length: 512 pages

Author Information: Website

Welcome to Donovan. Every new book introduces fresh meat for the planet to chew up and spit out, and Reckoning was no exception. This sixth volume of the series opens with the return of the Turalon, a ship carrying the representatives of the Corporation and members of some of the most powerful families back in the solar system. The word is out that Donovan is teeming with natural resources, and the rich are looking to get richer by getting their slice of that pie. This leaves Board Supervisor Kalico Aguila in the unenviable position of trying to keep all the newcomers alive once they arrive on-planet, while babysitting some massive egos. And of course, none seem to be taking the dangers of Donovan seriously, to her great dismay.

One of the passengers is Falise Taglioni, sister of Dek Taglioni who had come to Donovan years ago. Her plan is to snatch up Donovan for her family before any of her rivals can stake a claim, and that involves first finding her brother and then bending him to her will. However, unbeknownst to Falise, Dek had become assimilated into his new home, living in the bush. When the siblings unite, she’s certain to be in for a shock. Also onboard is Inspector General Soukup of the Corporation who has come to investigate reports that their once loyal subject Kalico Aguila has broken her contract and must be brought back to answer for her transgressions, bringing along Colonel Creamer and his team of Marines to keep the peace.

If you’ve come this far with the series, you should know what to expect by now. The major cast of Donovan remains largely unchanged planetside, with Kalico and Port Authority security head Talina Perez keeping the town running smoothly. Then there’s the quetzal-bonded teenager Kylee Simonov who has reluctantly come in from the wilderness to take care of a wounded friend. Dek has come into town as well to await the arrivals from Turalon, as it’s always fun times watching the “soft meat” get their first taste of Donovan—especially when one of them is your sister.

Things are always changing on Donovan, as evidenced by all the people always coming and going. In many cases, they are also dying, falling prey to the planet’s deadly fauna and flora. In that sense, Reckoning is another welcome addition to the series. It’s a familiar refrain, after all.

Perhaps that is why the previous book, Adrift, has become my favorite in the series. It offered something a little different, taking readers to the oceans of Donovan and switching gears to follow the characters of the doomed Maritime Unit. Reckoning was a return to Port Authority that also felt like a return to status quo, and although I was glad to be back with the PA crew again, there was also a part of me that missed the action, the exploration and the adventure. Plus, there’s just no denying Adrift was one of hell of a book to follow-up.

But lest you think I was disappointed with Reckoning, I really wasn’t. Sure, it was one of the more understated installments of this series with a story that was smaller in scope and less complex, but we did get to see more development in our core characters and their relationships. It was also an opportunity to take a step back and really see how Donovan has affected their lives and changed the way they looked at the world, and how the community of Port Authority as a whole has evolved. Take Kalico Aguila, for example, the woman who came to Donovan to rule it with an iron fist on behalf of the Corporation, but “found herself” instead—along with a new respect for the planet. In the process, she has also won the love and admiration of the citizens of Port Authority, every one of whom would fight to keep the Corporation from taking her away.

The point is, even when a new Donovan book comes out with a more low-key plot, there’s still a lot about it to enjoy. Those who come to Donovan and survive are changed by the experience; we’ve seen this time and time again and there’s at least one character that this happens to in Reckoning, a character I hope we’ll see more of in the future. The series doesn’t seem to be losing any steam yet and I think W. Michael Gear still has a lot more ideas for Donovan in store, so I’m liking my chances.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Outpost (Book 1)
Review of Abandoned (Book 2)

Review of Pariah (Book 3)
Review of Unreconciled (Book 4)
Review of Adrift (Book 5)