Tonight, I stare into the fog and think of the men I prepared for war today, feeling nothing for their deaths. The young ones spoke only of glory of battle. The old ones saw no glory in killing, just duty. They all believe in a better life, a vision that I no longer share. I strapped both kinds of men on their steeds, buckled the leather harnesses that made the knights one with my dragons. I wished them honor, but saved my prayers for the dragons.
This was my treat to myself for getting a bunch of work things done, and it was totally worth the hard work I did to earn it.
Paladin’s Grace, by T. Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon) is set in the Clocktaur Wars universe, in a land filled with gods and magic, but not in the cast-spells zap-your-enemies way. It is, as the author puts it, a “fluffy romance” filled with sexual tension, protagonists who love, well, everybody really but believe that nobody can love them, “helpful” friends, spies, intrigue, and a body count.
There are those of us who argue that “body count” isn’t normally a requirement for a fluffy romance, but that group of us obviously hasn’t read T. Kingfisher’s books. In fact, I was a bit worried about this one at first because the first confirmed dead body was so late in the book compared to some of the others….
Anyway, you will laugh, you will get sniffly, you will facepalm at the misunderstandings, you will demand a line of gingerbread-scented cologne, and you will sigh when everything ends as pragmatically happily ever after as possible.
Oh plus there’s a civet. Can’t have a book about a perfumer without a civet!
My ‘list of what I published this year” and my “most recent publication” list happen to be identical, so…
“A Working Dog”, published by Analog Science Fiction and Fact in the January/February 2021 issue (which came out in December 2020).
Megan had programmed the autonomous collective units to used bird flock dynamics. She’d intended to keep the rabbits from get- ting destroyed by coyotes or cats without in- juring whatever wildlife was in the area.
The rabbits danced. They weaved together in complex patterns, broke apart in two or three groups, came back together, and sepa- rated again. They flowed like a liquid.
Keith ran after them, following program- ming of his own.
A feral cat or a coyote would’ve quit when it got tired. They had the sense to know that burning too much energy on a failed kill left nothing for the next attempt.
Keith was not that kind of hunter.
If you’re more of the User Experience or Design wonk, you may be interested in my list of posts on The Interconnected, where I’ve published numerous articles on UX, Design, and being a human in the internet age.
A twelve year old Black girl goes from normal Chicago South Side pre-teen to staff-wielding “godling” when she discovers that her father is an Orisha, a god, and that he’s been captured by another god and taken to The Dark.
That’s a heck of a way to start summer vacation.
Maya and the other child characters in Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron are solidly twelve, sometimes afraid and willing to go to adults for help, and sometimes stubbornly unwilling to admit when something is probably out of their reach. The characters are majority minority, and South Side is represented as what it is — a place where there are risks above and beyond losing a bicycle. Maya’s not facing down the standard risks of Chicago, though. She’s facing down a god from millennia ago who is nursing a grudge against her father and planning to destroy all of Earth and its humanity to exact his revenge.
Maya is also anemic, which, well, it’s important for kids to see that even if they are half-god, they can get anemia…. and that even if they have anemia, they can save the world.
I, on the other hand, am a 44 year old white woman from rural Pennsylvania where the likes of David Eddings and other “traditional white high fantasy” authors made up the bulk of my library. I’ve been raised so far from the African mythology in the book that I have to keep checking the spelling of Orisha to ensure that I haven’t messed it up. These gods and goddesses were definitely not available for me at age 12, and I am thrilled to see that they’re available now.
A bunch of elves and the like marching around to save the world, the ones that I was raised on? It’s been done to death.
A bunch of Chicago kids who were attacked by the forces of evil first, and who have to discover the magic that lies within them if they’re going to save their families and prevent a war? Kids and adults that regret death every time it occurs? The possibility that the Darkbringers on the other side of the veil are no different from the Humans on this side, when it comes to raising families and doing some farming and trying to live their lives? Not something we normally see.
Even the character most associated with pure evil has strong motivation for his revenge. Not enough for us to root for him, but enough for us as readers to recognize that there have been wrongs on both sides of the veil.
This is a wonderful addition to the middle-grade science fiction / fantasy canon, and I look forward to the next one in the series.
Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher is a young-adult-ish or maybe middle-reader book about a minor mage, a fair amount of murder and gristly stuff, and a sarcastic armadillo.
I love it.
The author is worried it is not a children’s book but it’s exactly the kind of horror fantasy I devoured and tried to write in my preteen years. And I turned out all right as far as I can tell.
Plus cloud sheep.
Worth the read.