Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Nov 10

Happy Monday (and sorry for the delay), astral travelers and astronauts! This week we’ve got reviews of Afar and Gilded Cage, a Harry Potter game announcement, the World Fantasy Awards, Arthuriana, and that’s just for starters.

cover of Rosemarked by Livia BlackburneThis newsletter is sponsored by Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne.

This smart, sweeping fantasy with a political edge and a slow-burning romance will capture fans of An Ember in the Ashes. A thrilling YA fantasy of intrigue and betrayal, it delves into what it means to truly fight for freedom.

Reminder: you have until November 26 to enter our giveaway for a $500 gift card to your favorite bookstore! Open world-wide, in case you were wondering.

VERY IMPORTANT NEWS: We are getting an AR Harry Potter game called Wizards Unite and my body is ready. I only played Pokémon Go for a hot minute (I ran into a streetlight and also my battery died way too fast) but if I can go around collecting fantastic beasts, for example, I will just wear a helmet and get a battery pack.

From the Department of WHY THOUGH: The Lord of the Rings is potentially getting a TV series, and Sonja nails my bewilderment and frustration in that write-up. Just, no.

In more interesting (to me) adaptation news, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is getting a middle-grade series! We had a whole discussion in the Insiders Forum about what this means from a timeline perspective, since this pushes back Buffy’s call from 15 to 12. Also, no Giles. But I’m curious anyway, plus the art is cute!

The World Fantasy Award Winners have been announced! This list always makes me feel like I am deeply behind on my reading.

Do you need a post-Bladerunner reading fix? We got you covered. Cosign on Warcross, which was so much fun!

How about a reading list of Arthuriana, put together by a medievalist? Also covered!

And last but not least, am I the only one who thinks that this cape blazer could reference Hela just as well as it does Loki? Do want.

Afar by Leila del Duca and Kit Seaton, edited by Taneka Stotts

cover of AfarI’ve had this graphic novel sitting on my TBR stack for months, and I finally picked it up this week. Why did I wait? Beautifully drawn and colored, well-paced and well-imagined, Afar is a sibling story, a space adventure, and a journey well worth taking.

Boetema and Inotu are teenage siblings whose parents can’t seem to get it together. Their mother is often depressed and their father can’t seem to find work, no matter how many times they move to a new village. When the latest move fails to change things, her parents leave them behind to take the work they can find. Then Inotu runs afoul of a political conspiracy, and the two are forced to flee into the desert. In the meantime, every time she sleeps Boetema finds herself in a different body on a different world. As Boetema struggles to figure out the nature of her powers and how to control them, she must also try to provide for herself and her brother in her waking life.

The world the siblings move through is clearly post-collapse — technology is present but faulty and scavenged, and sustenance is hard to find. The worlds that Boetema explores are varied and intriguing, though we only get short glimpses of most of them. The mesh of mythology, astral projection, and technology works well here, giving great textures and layers to this coming of age, coming-into-power story.

There are many things to love about Afar: the incorporation of folklore, the world-building, the diversity of characters, the gorgeous art (seriously, it’s gorgeous), the portrayal of a complicated but still loving family life. My only objection is that there isn’t a sequel announced yet — there’s lots of story left to tell here, and I hope to see more!

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

cover of gilded cage by vic jamesDo you love British fantasy? How about class inequities complicated by magic? What about dark and twisted families? If you answered yes to any/all of the above, then Gilded Cage should be on your TBR.

Taking place in an alternate modern Britain, it follows two families: the magical and very wealthy Jardines, and the working-class Headleys. The Headleys are about to embark on their “service” years, 10 years in which they can either be hired on as household help by an upper-crust family or work in industrial encampments known for their high mortality rates. While most of the Headleys are headed to the Jardine estate, Luke is separated and sent to a factory town. As Luke starts to question the “natural order” of his world, the Jardine sons are locked in a power struggle that has more layers than you can shake a stick at.

Playing with the myth of meritocracy and the entrenchment of power structures, James is definitely not light-handed with the politics — but that’s the point of the book. As we learn more about the world both through the upper- and the lower-classes, we also see James playing with her system of magic. Gritty, believable, and glitzy when appropriate, Gilded Cage is a fast-paced page-turner of a novel. Several well-played twists had me slack-jawed and rummaging for clues. It also sets things up nicely for the next two installments; it’s a planned trilogy, with Tarnished City coming to the US in February 2018. (Lucky UK readers already have it.)

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.

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,