March 2015 Book Releases

by: Janea A. Schimmel

ed. by: Gayle Cottrill

Once again, it’s time to take a tour of the upcoming books. March 2015 has some heavy hitters in it, and also marks a return of independant publisher Angry Robot to the new release list after a hiatus since September.

The Returning Literary Warriors:

Debuts:

Returning Contenders:

1. Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Series: Alpha and Omega # 4
Genre: Urban Fantasy

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…

2. Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Series: Empire and Rebellion #3 (Star Wars)
Genre: Science Fiction, Shared Universe

The Galactic Civil War rages on after the destruction of the Death Star and Luke Skywalker struggles to learn more about the Force without the aid of Obi-Wan Kenobi – or indeed without any aid at all. But the few memories he has of Obi-Wan’s instruction point the way to a stronger control of the Force, and he is encouraged to pursue it by a new friend in the Alliance. When Luke, R2-D2 and his new ally are tasked with liberating a valuable asset from the Empire and delivering her to a safe planet where she can aid the Alliance, their journey across the galaxy is fraught with peril – and opportunities for Luke to discover the mysteries of the Force.

3. Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Series: InCryptid #4
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Endangered, adjective: Threatened with extinction or immediate harm.

Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own. The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground. Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.

4. Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

Release Date: Date: March 3rd, 2015
Series: The Others #3
Genre: Urban Fantasy

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

5. Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale

Release Date: March 17th, 2015
Series: The Clash of Eagles #1
Genre: Alternate History

It’s The Last of the Mohicans meets HBO’s Rome in this exciting and inventive debut novel from Sidewise Award-winner Alan Smale that will thrill fans of alternate history, historical fiction, and military fiction.

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, a legion under the command of general Gaius Marcellinus invades the newly-discovered North American continent. But Marcellinus and his troops have woefully underestimated the fighting prowess of the Native American inhabitants. When Gaius is caught behind enemy lines and spared, he must reevaluate his allegiances and find a new place in this strange land.

6. Prudence by Gail Carriger

Release Date: March 17th, 2015
Series: The Custard Protocol #1
Genre: Steampunk

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

7. Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory

Release Date: March 24th, 2015
Genre: Horror

From award winning author Daryl Gregory comes a thrilling and colorful Lovecraftian adventure of a teenage boy searching for his mother, and the macabre creatures he encounters.

Harrison Harrison—H2 to his mom—is a lonely teenager who’s been terrified of the water ever since he was a toddler in California, when a huge sea creature capsized their boat, and his father vanished. One of the “sensitives” who are attuned to the supernatural world, Harrison and his mother have just moved to the worst possible place for a boy like him: Dunnsmouth, a Lovecraftian town perched on rocks above the Atlantic, where strange things go on by night, monsters lurk under the waves, and creepy teachers run the local high school.

On Harrison’s first day at school, his mother, a marine biologist, disappears at sea. Harrison must attempt to solve the mystery of her accident, which puts him in conflict with a strange church, a knife­wielding killer, and the Deep Ones, fish­-human hybrids that live in the bay. It will take all his resources—and an unusual host of allies—to defeat the danger and find his mother.

8. The Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #4
Genre: Steampunk

For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment…

Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself...

9. The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Series: The Demon Cycle #4
Genre: Epic Fantasy

The first three novels in New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett’s groundbreaking Demon Cycle series—The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War—set a new standard for heroic fantasy. The powerful saga of humans winnowed to the brink of extinction by night-stalking demons, and the survivors who fight back, has kept readers breathless as they eagerly turned the pages. Now the thrilling fourth volume, The Skull Throne, raises the stakes as it carries the action in shocking new directions.

The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing each other and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .

10. The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Series: Memoir of Lady Trent #3
Genre: Fantasy

Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.

The Debuts:

1. Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz

Release Date: March 3, 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Speculative Post Review: Dan's Review

FLEX: Distilled magic in crystal form. The most dangerous drug in the world. Snort it, and you can create incredible coincidences to live the life of your dreams.

FLUX: The backlash from snorting Flex. The universe hates magic and tries to rebalance the odds; maybe you survive the horrendous accidents the Flex inflicts, maybe you don’t.

PAUL TSABO: The obsessed bureaucromancer who’s turned paperwork into a magical Beast that can rewrite rental agreements, conjure rented cars from nowhere, track down anyone who’s ever filled out a form.

But when all of his formulaic magic can’t save his burned daughter, Paul must enter the dangerous world of Flex dealers to heal her. Except he’s never done this before – and the punishment for brewing Flex is army conscription and a total brain-wipe.

File Under: Urban Fantasy

2. The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Series: The Buried Life #1
Genre: Steampunk

The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Recoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.

When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…

A Darker Shade of Magic

Author: V.E. Schwab

Series: Darker Shade of Magic #1

Subgenre: Fantasy

A Darker Shade of Magic is the first in a new series by author Victoria Schwab, who had previously primarily published YA fiction and is presumably using the V.E. Schwab pen-name as a separator between her types of work. A story of magic, multiple instances of the city of London set in the late 1700s. Our protagonist Kell is a particular kind of special magician who is one of the few trusted to travel between the various alternate Londons, and acts generally as a go-between to the various versions’ royal families. While the general concept is interesting, the use of London is so overdone in the past few years that it alone was enough to bring me in not enthused. I’ll grant before I get started that I was only sent a preview copy of this novel, and not the whole thing (about 120 pages of the 400 page length) so your mileage may vary with some of what I have to say since I don’t know for sure where it all goes, but in general, I felt we had a good couple characters with a reasonable story in a boring setting.

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

The Speculative Post's Review

Setting

Characters

Plot

Writing Mechanics

Genre

N.B. This is a review of the PREVIEW copy of the novel, comprising only 25% of the total length. This is what they sent for review, so it’s all I can speak to. If something later on contradicts a criticism I’ve leveled, or a compliment I’ve raised, I can only plead ignorance.

London. Man, why is it always London? I know I know, long rich history, lots of well-known landmarks that are still kicking around, mostly white authors of English descent. There are all kinds of reasons why London, but you know what would be great? Not London. Europe has all kinds of old and awesome cities that could be the focal point of your narrative. As soon as I saw “alternate London” I just sort of went ‘ugh, okay then.’ I felt more like I was buckling down than gearing up. I suppose the one thing it had going for it was the fact that other than being called London, they cities apparently have next to nothing in common. Oh except that there’s a magical bar that also happens to be in the same place in all the cities. The Londons are also colour-coded for our benefit. The one we know, our world, is Grey London. The one the main character Kell comes from is Red London, which is super nice, and full of magic, and rainbows. Then there is stark, sort of evil White London, and hopefully no longer existing or at least completely cut off from everybody actually evil Black London. The royalty in each one directly reflects these vague themes, to an almost hyperbolic degree. The whole thing feels a little pasted together. Granted I only read a quarter of the novel, but I read the first quarter, the one where Schwab should be painting me a beautiful picture of each London to make sure I really feel it. But all I came away with was Grey=Boring, Red=Great, White=Mostly Evil, Black=All Evil. Lost opportunity.

One thing A Darker Shade of Magic did have going for it was the magic system, again with what little I saw of it. We’ve got a fairly typical elemental control sort of Last Airbender kind of thing, with earth, air, fire, water and bone being the elements. Most people who can do magic have a particular affinity with one and rarely others. Kell is an Antari, which so far appears to mean he can do every kind of magic, and also maybe he’s got some evil something in him, because he can do blood magic, which is the magic of command. The actual execution of what little magic we see besides his blood-based travelling magic was pretty cool. The descriptions of his elemental manipulations read really well. Definitely good future-movie stuff.

As for the plot of A Darker Shade of Magic, it’s difficult to say. This was definitely a specifically crafted preview of the story, since it basically ends on the cliffhanger part where you’d have your first commercial break. I have a feeling from what I’ve read so far that it’s going to be reasonably interesting, but with some of the tropey crud that I feel bogs a lot of stories down. The whole interplay between Kell and Delilah Bard mentioned in the publisher description just reeks of Manic Pixie Dream Girl stuff, though Kell is a character that doesn’t read like the typical protagonist in those stories. But the fact that they basically run into each other Meet-Cute style doesn’t bode well. What I saw of Delilah on her own was pretty great. She had aspirations, goals, guts, and didn’t need to be protected even while avoiding being just a guy with breasts. But with the kind of set up where I was left, I just had this image of Kell being Hugh Grant in the movie and shuddered a little. Some of the other reviews I’ve seen have been wondering how much romance is in this book and how much potential for it there is. So far I feel like “It’ll be there, and I’ll wish it wasn’t.” Kell goes and does things, but any time he does something ‘wrong’ he has this little thrill of disobeying that is just begging for a crazy fun-loving female character to pull him out of his shell, and I’m very much afraid that it’ll ruin Delilah for me if I read the rest of the book and the later books in the series. Another lost opportunity.

I feel like I should cut this short just in case the preview isn’t representative of the whole in a way that makes you feel misled by the review! Altogether I enjoyed what I read as much as I could, given my unease about where it was going and my general dislike of throwing ANOTHER ‘Magical London’ book on the ever-growing heap. I’d like to see more of the magic system, and hope that Delilah doesn’t just turn into a zany foil and love interest for Kell. I’ll probably be picking up the full novel just to satisfy my curiosity. Maybe I’ll put together a comparative review based on this, as part of a look at how preview excerpts work compared to full novels. Fun times.

Dan received a Preview Excerpt of this novel from Tor Books via NetGalley



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