Ali B and the Forty Spaceships — Part the Sixth [Jan 2015]
“Taboo is something that is so sacred and so terrible that it cannot be changed, touched or mentioned.”
—The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones
I HAVE PREVIOUSLY waxed lyrical about anthologies and the burgeoning Independent Publishing scene here in the UK, so I’m particularly happy to introduce fantasy fans to a new kid on the block, of sorts. The website, www.fantasy-faction.com has been around since 2010 (and seen over 3m visitors to its website, mid-2014), but this first Fantasy-Faction Anthology [Fantasy-Faction Publishing, Sept 2014] took a while to arrive — editor and website founder Marc Aplin thought it would be a good idea to encourage website visitors to “just write fantasy” and put an open call out for submissions. 1700 submissions and two years later… this is a cracking volume, made all the more entertaining because the stories throughout are interspersed with non-fiction articles from several leading genre authors. I know there’ll be more to follow, but at least Marc has agreed to draft in some extra help for the next one, to ensure it doesn’t take quite so long to compile. Highly recommended.
The Miniaturist [Harper Collins, Aug 2014] is another debut, this time from Jessie Burton. Heavily hyped upon first release, and winner of the Waterstones Book of the Year for 2014, Burton’s debut has received both praise and stiff criticism from many quarters. 18-year-old Nella Oortman is married off to a wealthy merchant twenty years her senior, and instead of consummating their marriage he gifts her an extravagant miniature dollhouse — a perfect replica of their own stately home — and invites her to populate it at his expense. What follows is a strangely beguiling mystery that deftly incorporates typical scenes from 17th century Amsterdam, evoking the period really well. Alas, the main criticism levelled at this is that several characters seem somewhat too 21st century for a 17th century universe — and as good as this concept may sound, I’m afraid that’s not an inherent part of the whole, unfortunately… Worth seeking out, though, I think.
Regular readers will know I’m a big Sarah Pinborough fan, and her heart-breaking story about terminally-ill children (originally called Stay With Me) will finally be released in February 2015 under the new title The Death House [Gollancz, Feb 2015]. As the name suggests, this is a place where terminally-ill children — called Defectives — go to live out their dying days, without bringing bothersome stress and worry to their parents… The children are watched over by an eagle-eyed set of austere nurses looking for that first portend of impending doom, and then dutifully whisked off to the sanatorium during the night, along with all their worldly belongings, while the rest of the children remain fast asleep. Into this depressing, secluded world, the prospect of young love blossoming seems startling. Sure enough, that’s what Toby finds when new girl Clara comes to join them, shaking up this staid miserable environment and playing havoc with the established status quo. Of course the inevitable happens, and it’s heart-rending, but to quote the blurb: “…because everybody dies, it’s how you choose to live that counts.” Wonderful, moving stuff. *Sniff*
On a brighter note, there are many great new books scheduled for release in 2015, so here’s a select few for your delectation…
Jen Williams’ The Iron Ghost [Headline, Feb 2015] is the sequel to her popular debut novel, The Copper Promise [Headline, Aug 2014], and sees our trio of mercenaries return after their first adventure more in demand than ever before. There are a few love tangles here, plenty of bickering of course, some great combat and action sequences, and a gamut of unanswered questions… Just what you’d expect from the second book in a trilogy, really. “Traditional fantasy this is,” says my mate, Yoda.
The Boy Who Wept Blood [Gollancz, Jan 2015] is another second book in a trilogy worth looking out for: Den Patrick’s The Erebus Sequence. Set in a kingdom with a definitive Renaissance Italy vibe and sporting aspects of Mervyn Peake’s claustrophobic Gormenghast trilogy with its glorious mix of decadence and decay, the first book, The Boy With The Porcelain Blade [Gollancz, March 2014 — p/back just published, Jan 2015] proved a fabulous opener, so I’ve got really high hopes for this sequel.
Another forthcoming sequel is Joe Abercrombie’s Half The World [Gollancz, Feb 2015] — more astute readers will recall I mentioned the first volume, Half A King, a while ago (along with Best Served Cold in the same column), so rest assured I’m keen to get my hands on this second book in the Shattered Sea YA trilogy. If there’s one thing this author is really good at it is world-building, and Half the World sets the scene nicely for another bout of gritty violence and vengeance sought…
Finally, with little room for anything else this time round, how handy would it be to have The Invisible Library [Tor, Jan 2015] by Genevieve Cogman? Set in a chaos-infested alternate-reality London and filled to the brim with supernatural creatures and wild magic, this one is definitely worth keeping them peeled for… 😉
‘Til next time. Keep reading, folks!
* This column originally appeared in the
March/Apr 2015 issue of BTS Book Reviews