‘Jade City’ By Fonda Lee

Sort of fantasy, but not really. More like science fiction, in some ways, set on a fictional world resembling the late forties detente that followed World War II. This, perhaps, threw me off and it took me a while to get into it.

What is worthwhile is a fascinating locale, resembling an Asian nation, ostensibly a constitutional monarchy, but in reality governed by rival criminal families (I could be wrong, but it seems modeled on earlier eras in Hong Kong or Macau, when Triads had a hand in much of the economy). Also, while most of the characters are men, the one, major POV protagonist, Shae, is absolutely compelling. One wishes that the author had written more strong women into the book and that sequels will feature Shae and other women more prominently.

Raiders From The Rings

A decent, exciting yarn: pretty standard fare for sixties pulp science fiction (if you remember that most of it wasn’t written by Heinlein or Dick).

I am mostly thinking back to how many of these stories of conflict within the solar system use aliens as a deus ex machina or science fiction magic. From Agent of Chaos to the more recent Leviathan Wakes.

Richard Blade: Slave Of Sarma

I knew about Richard Blade because the first fifteen or so pages of the first Doctor Who novelizations I ever read contained an essay by Harlan Ellison extolling the virtues of the good Doctor vis-a-vis Star Trek and Star Wars and a teaser for the Richard Blade novels.

They are basically Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars novels, but with more modern pseudo-science (a fancy computer sends Blade to Dimension X, which seems normally to be a series of worlds teeming with swordplay, derring-do, and beautiful women; and also with a less chivalrous attitude towards women (did we have to know that Blade made the captured princess pee in front of him and his new friend, because they couldn’t let her out of their sight, because I know that I could have done without; likewise with Blade’s rapturous self recommendations of his own sexual prowess).

Honestly, they are not as fun as Burroughs’ planetary romances. The action doesn’t feel as lively and while Blade may be less of a goody two shoes than Burroughs’ two dimensional protagonists, he is also a grade A prof.

‘The Goblin Emperor’ By Katherine Addison

Not a new story, but an old story well done. The unexpected and unprepared heir to a great empire suddenly finds himself on the throne. This story has some steampunk elements, so the emperor and all his first choice heirs die in an airship accident (?), propelling young Maia to the throne. There appear to be no humans in this fantasy world and this new emperor of an Elven empire is half-goblin.

Naturally, he is a good person, which surprises many and leads to great loyalty by some, while others resent him for his (minor, in my opinion) upsetting of apple carts.

One nice touch: he is not preternaturally gifted at politics. He is frequently in over his head and does not act too much wiser than his eighteen years.

Looking forward to the sequel.

Prince Of Thorns

Not easy to get into, but grew on me. The hero is a young sociopath who maybe has an admirable goal? It opens setting him up as such a despicable character that I rather expected the real protagonist show and kill the teenage Jorg Ancrath. But, of course, he was the hero.

The setting is obliquely revealed as being some kind of post-apocalyptic Europe where magic appears to be real. But since left over science is also real, maybe later books will show it to have non-magical explanations. I don’t want to overrate what he does here. Lawrence is good, but this isn’t Gene Wolfe and Jorg isn’t Severin.