Feb 02, 2018

Happy Friday, troubadours and Time Lords! Today includes reviews of Markswoman and Eternal Life, 1970s covers, Black Panther costumes, the apocalypse, and more.

This newsletter is sponsored by The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get…

’70’s style: Tor.com is doing a series of posts on the female authors of the 1970s, and I both love the concept and feel blinded by the covers. Here’s A-F, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Are you counting down to Black Panther? Because I am. Please enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the style and costuming of the movie, courtesy of EW!

Less capes, more heroes: If you need a break from caped crusaders but still want some deeds of supernatural derring-do, here’s a round-up of 18 comics you’ll enjoy. Several personal favorites (Saga! Bitch Planet! Pretty Deadly!) are on there.

The Name of the Wind has a director, and it’s Sam Raimi. Who I still haven’t forgiven for the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, womp womp.

Fight on: I deeply appreciate this SF & F for the Resistance post.

Sometimes you need to wallow: If you’re feeling like it’s the end of the world and want to get really into those feels, here are five apocalypse novels to add to your stack.

Follow up: retail therapy! Because who doesn’t need an “As you wish” throw pillow, or Merlin beard oil?

Supernatural swords and immortality, ahoy!

Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra

Markswoman by Rati MehrotraMeet Kyra, the newest Markswoman in the Order of Kali. She’s just taken out her first mark — by which I mean, assassinated him with her super-powered knife — and she’s not feeling as great about it as she would like. Then, the chain of command is upset within the Order and her mentor dies unexpectedly. She believes it was murder, and consequently finds herself on the run.

There are several layers to the story. Kyra was orphaned by the murder of her parents and family, and that murder turns out to have wider ramifications than she knew. The Order is struggling even before the death of her mentor, and the resulting political jockeying is complicated and potentially deadly. Then there’s the Order of Khur, composed of men, outcast by some of the other Orders. Family, gender, tribal alliances, conservatism vs. progression, all contribute to the twists and turns of the plot. And then there’s that alien technology I mentioned.

You all know that I have a weakness for fantastical assassins, and Mehrotra has hit that sweet spot in Markswoman. She’s also built a world that I am dying to hear more about. It’s a post-catastrophe version of our world, far in a future in which aliens have come and gone and left mysterious technology behind. The region Kyra lives in, Asiana, is clearly inspired by India and Asia, which is a refreshing new addition to the genre. So much to love here! Markswoman is action-packed, thoughtful, and a brave new world for readers to explore.

Eternal Life by Dara Horn

What if you were immortal and a child-bearing woman? This question lies at the heart of Dara Horn’s newest novel. Rachel made a bargain with God to save the life of her son, and 2,000 years later she’s still alive with millenia worth of husbands, children, and grandchildren behind her.

Technology is finally catching up to Rachel; one of her current grandchildren works in genetic engineering, and has started asking questions. It’s also not as easy to fake your death and disappear as it used to be. And Rachel can’t help but wonder if she should reveal her secret — maybe technology could help her finally die. Complicating things is Elazar, the father of her first son, who was made immortal in the same bargain. Their relationship is stormy, complicated, and deeply conflicted.

The storyline switches mainly between the beginning of Rachel’s life in Roman-occupied Jerusalem and the present day. The juxtaposition of ancient Jewish scholarship with modern day concerns like bitcoin and genetics is occasionally jarring, deliberately I’m guessing, and highlights the strangeness of Rachel’s experience and longevity. Rachel’s story also alternates from dreamy and mundane moments to dark, violent ones. All that combined meant that the story never quite went where I expected it to go.

As Horn is playing with what immortality looks like, the focus is primarily on what motherhood means to Rachel. She gave up her death for her son; was it worth it? She’s had and lost husbands, more children, grandchildren — does the pain of losing them outweigh the joy and meaning they bring to her life? There are no easy answers given. If you’re interested in taking the journey with her, pick this up post-haste.

And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

Your fellow booknerd,

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