mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
([personal profile] mrkinch Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:50 pm)
I left Berkeley at 7 am with U and MF for a long and excellent day at Point Reyes. We stopped briefly at Park Headquarters, where we saw several large coveys of quail, a song sparrow that stumped us because it hadn't gotten its song together properly yet, dark-eyed junco, Brewer's blackbirds, and a bobcat that apparently has been hanging around the picnic area for several days. Kind of worrying for the animal. Next brief stop was where Sir Francis Blvd crosses the northern end of Drake's Estero. There we saw great egret, song sparrow, Savannah sparrow, several red-tails, what were probably a couple of Say's phoebes and heard, off in the distance, greater yellow-legs and clapper/Ridgway's rail. Then it was on to the first really cool spot, the old RCA site, labeled on google maps as the Cypress Tunnel, a long avenue of tall, old cypress trees that leads to a more open area with a few buildings, varied vegetation, and usually fabulous birding. Tragically someone had turned off the water leak and torn out all the vegetation around it that used to be an amazing draw for migrant birds, even a swamp sparrow one winter, but despite this misstep we had a great time there. Four warblers! Birds of the RCA site: )

Next stop was the Fish Docks, where I got a fifth warbler and a few other species. Birds of the Fish Docks: ) Bird of the day was here, a broad-winged hawk on migration.

There were other things up in the cypress but I could not pull them out. And of course we could see, and often hear, the elephant seals hauled out in Drake's Bay. We then went out to the lighthouse, where we saw the local peregrine, some cliff swallows, sundry sea birds (pos Brandt's cormorants) from a great height, and a few humpback whales. It was after 2 pm when we finally ate lunch at Drake's Beach beside a bank of willows from which we heard Bewick's wren, wrentit, song sparrow, California scrub jay, a Steller's jay faking a red-tail badly and, just before we left, presumably from the marsh behind the willows, a Virginia rail. Additional species seen along the road were Canada geese, wild turkey, tri-color and red-winged blackbirds in amongst the dairy herds, a Cooper's hawk, many red-tails, and an American kestrel. Somewhere we heard killdeer. Also saw deer and coyotes, but no elk.
sheliak: A mermaid stares in fascination down a chasm in the ocean floor, through which an underwater city is visible. (trot)
([personal profile] sheliak posting in [community profile] fandom_icons Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:17 pm)

20 Star Trek: Rihannsu icons and 55 other Star Trek TOS book cover icons over here.

Posted by Ana

We are over at Kirkus for our regular column! It’s Thea’s turn again today, taking a look at the latest Star Wars novel: Phasma by Delilah Dawson


All Hail Phasma! As far as the Star Wars new canon goes, Phasma is utterly memorable and will make you hungry for more. Go over to Kirkus to check the whole review out.

The post Over at Kirkus: Phasma by Delilah Dawson appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
([personal profile] mrkinch Sep. 21st, 2017 02:45 pm)
I walked out to the Mezue trailhead and back, seven hours, eight-and-a-half or nine miles. Almost like the old days except that carrying bins in my fannypack turned pouch limits the number of layers I can remove and stash. Today it worked well. The weather was perfect, no fog, little wind, yet cool enough that I wasn't miserable in two layers on return. The white-crowned sparrows are back! I saw a couple of juveniles and heard some iffy songs in the open area just north of Conlon, but only on the way back. On the way out I was dawdling to allow a coyote to put some distance between us (this was just after I'd dawdled to allow a cow with calf to do the same - there were a lot of mammals up there today) and noticed an unmistakable, non-native bird: a European goldfinch, presumably an escapee. So I had three kinds of goldfinch today, lesser, American, and one apparently healthy European. For migrants I had one Pacific-slope flycatcher in an sheltered oak at about 3 mi and one black-throated gray warbler in an oak at the top of Laurel Canyon Road. Oh, and my reward for getting all the way out to the trail head was a Say's phoebe at the junction and a large family of coyotes in the near distance. The list may be less fun than the incidentals: )

One other mammal, my first skunk! Way out in the dry grass north of 3 mi, a striped skunk trundled up the slope from the west, crossed the road, and trundled on east through the fence and disappeared. If only I'd had the presence of mind to take video.

Posted by Ana

Title: A Skinful of Shadows

Author: Frances Hardinge

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Macmillan / Amulet
Publication date: September 2017 / October 2017
Hardcover: 416 pages


This is the story of a bear-hearted girl . . .

Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide.
Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding.

Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard.

And now there’s a spirit inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, and it may be her only defence when she is sent to live with her father’s rich and powerful ancestors. There is talk of civil war, and they need people like her to protect their dark and terrible family secret.

But as she plans her escape and heads out into a country torn apart by war, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Review copy from the publisher

Format (e- or p-): Print


Over the years, I have made no secret of my adoration for the novels of Frances Hardinge. I wait for every single one of them with bated breath, knowing that wherever the author decides to take me, it will be a journey worth following.

So here we are, with a new release, fresh off the presses, straight into my greedy hands. And just like every one of her books before this, I was transported into a world of wonders.

A Skinful of Shadows is the story of a girl. The story of a country in the throes of Civil War. The way these two stories intersect and diverge from one another. It’s a story about a brother and a sister, a mother and a daughter, a girl who needs to grow up. It has a unique found family, one bear, female spies, ghosts and terrible villains. It is above all, a story about trust and having faith in people.

Makepeace grew up with a dutiful but demanding mother in the house of her aunt’s family. Of her father she never knew anything, except for a heritage she never asked for and which her mother fled away from.

You see, Makepeace has a space within her where ghosts can find a new home. All her life, she has been trained to avoid possession, driven to despair by her mother who locked up her in cemeteries where the ghosts were plentiful and merciless. But keeping them at bay she did – until the day when after a fight, her mother tragically dies and full of guilt and grief, Makepeace makes herself open to the spirit of a… bear.

Now inside of her, Bear causes havoc – and Makepeace often loses track of her mind and her whereabouts. Unable to cope, her family seeks her father’s family – the Fellmotes, an ancient, powerful family – and Makepeace is taken away to the place where people know exactly what to do with someone with a power such as hers. And it’s not pretty.

And for the next three years or so, she will try to escape – with the help of a brother she never knew she had, but whose shared heritage brings them together. But the Fellmotes will not make it easy for them – for the two kids are needed for the very survival of their powerful household. The problem is: their bodies may be indispensable because of their power but who they are – or at least what makes them them – is effectively expendable.

Just like The Lie Tree, A Skinful of Shadows feels like a less extravagant and less fantastical novel because it is deeply rooted in the history of our world. Whereas Hardinge’s earlier novels were firmly set in secondary world fantasies, The Lie Tree was a Victorian mystery and A Skinful of Shadows, a story set in the beginning of the British Civil War.

This doesn’t mean that the fantasy aspects are less significant though – and in here, the side of fantastical is no less elaborate: in fact, it serves the larger plot and it is essential in the formation of Makepeace’s arc. The former lies in the way that the fate of the Fellmotes is intermingled with that of the country and how their actions play a part in the dispute between Parliament and the King. The latter, in how Makepace’s character develops, grows, transforms herself into a courageous young woman. If there is one thing that connects all of the author’s works is this: the principled, strong-willed, dynamic and fierce heroines she creates. Makepeace might not know whose side should be victor in this war, but she never wavers from righting wrongs and she will fight tooth and … claws to save the life of her brother and the lives of those she thinks deserve a second chance.

This goes deep into the character in other ways too: does she deserve a second chance? She doesn’t know but she knows she wants to live. That principle, the urge to live, shapes other characters’ motivations too and the cost can be high. To some is death. To other, losing something far more precious. The allure of power to those who don’t usually have it is looked at with down-to-earth lenses and over and over, Makepeace decides to trust people and to believe them.

She traverses her world – from one camp to another in the midst of one of the worst, most bloody moments in British history with villains chasing her, spies helping her, with fear at her back and hope at her core but always moved by:

“We believe in second chances, for the people who don’t usually get them.”

A Skinful of Shadows is yet another beautiful, multi-layered novel by one of the brightest stars in the YA sky. Highly, highly recommended.

Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect

Buy the Book:

The post Book Review: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

Posted by The Book Smugglers

Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

Old School Wednesdays Final

Logo designed by the wonderful KMont

The Golden Compass

US Edition


UK Edition

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help on of them will be to betray the other…

Title: The Golden Compass (US) / Northern Lights (UK)

Author: Philip Pullman

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: First published 1995
Paperback: 448 pages

Stand alone or series: First in His Dark Materials series

How did we get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print


This October, The Book of Dust–the first book in a brand new “equal” (not prequel, not sequel) spinoff trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, set in the His Dark Materials world–will reintroduce us to Lyra, Will, and the world of daemons, magic, and science.

With the new book’s release nearly upon us, we decided that it was high time to reread the His Dark Materials books. HOW DID WE FARE?

For this review, we’re approaching things a little differently and answering prompts to thematic questions about the book. If you’re so inclined, we welcome you to also answer the questions and join the conversation!

Discussion Questions:

1.Let’s talk about personal reflection, and how The Golden Compass holds up to the test of time. First impressions: How does the book stack up to the memory and expectation?

Ana: I am so glad we are re-reading His Dark Materials. I first read it in 2004: I had just moved to the UK and I was looking for Fantasy novels similar to The Lord of the Rings (because at that moment in time, it was the one Fantasy reference I had) and I ended up borrowing it from the library. This was in many ways, my gateway into reading contemporary Fantasy, a first taste of YA AND the first novels I read in English. I remember reading it and thinking: wow this is better than The Lord of the Rings. As such, as I was a bit terrified about this re-read. This first book re-read was a mixed bag for me: I still really loved it but found it to be more slow moving that I was expecting? Memory told me The Golden Compass was non-stop action but really, there are very slow moving scenes/info-dump followed by action-packed ones – so in the end, I thought this first book to be rather uneven.

Thea: I actually was introduced to this series through my four-years-younger sister, back around the time I was starting to get into Harry Potter. I’d read The Golden Compass back then (early 2000) and remember enjoying it a bunch… But I didn’t continue the series. It wasn’t until eight years later, just before starting The Book Smugglers, that I rediscovered The Golden Compass and blazed through the series in a frenzy of awe and passion. I loved these books. So, rereading was a big deal–I was terrified that this first book would not hold up (and I had already been burned by that lackluster movie adaptation). 

The good news is that The Golden Compass totally holds up. Yeah, it’s a lot of info dumping and yeah, there are things that are handled in clunky fashion. But on the whole? Lyra is still the heroine of my heart.

2. Daemons are badass. What are daemons in your opinion? And what would your daemon be?

Ana: Well, in the book the impression one has is that daemons are a person’s own soul outside their bodies which is really fascinating. The world in which Lyra lives is only one from many and I love the rules build around daemons and the correct way of approaching them (it’s not polite to touch another person’s daemon for example) and how that’s integrated into the worldbuilding and in the relationship between characters. It is also fundamental to the very foundation of the series: it is the understanding of daemons and how they affect children and adults in different ways that move the Church as well as the main antagonists of the novel.

What would my daemon be? Probably some sort of a cat? But one of the fun things about daemons is that sometimes a person has a vision of themselves that don’t correspond to what their daemons are, so maybe a freaking dog?

Thea: I am glad Ana touched on the taboo of touching another’s daemon, and the intimacy of that relationship. Having just recently reread the Harry Potter books, I can’t help but compare these to horcruxes–albeit ones that didn’t require the destruction of a soul, though in spirit they are parts of the soul outside the body. But daemons are cooler, because they are the natural order of things in Lyra’s world (not products of murder) and how cool would it be to have a part of you, that intimately knows everything about you, who you can talk to and confide in, outside of your body? Like Ana, I would like to think my daemon would be some kind of enormous hunting cat, like Lord Asriel’s snow lion (mine would probably be more mountain lion or jaguar). But I would also not be surprised if it was something amphibious, like a frog or a lizard.

3. Let’s look at gender roles specifically in this novel. Why are daemons the opposite gender of their humans, for example? How are Lyra and Melissa Coulter’s roles different than Lord Asriel or Lee Scoresby’s, for example?

Ana: The daemons being the opposite gender to me reads like the ideas of anima and animus from psychology: “in the unconscious of a man, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of a woman it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.”

However, the gender aspect of the novel seems very fixed and binary and even though I love this world, it also begs the question with regards to other genders and how would their daemons work for trans people, non-binary folks, etc. I don’t think we ever see this at play in the world?

In terms how that divide applies to characters, I see both men and women being equally great and nurturing or equally nasty and ambitious. So equal opportunity for character development.

Thea: I agree that the novel is incredibly, frustratingly binary in its approach to gender and gender roles–I wish there had been some acknowledgement of or development of trans characters, for example, or genderqueer humans and their daemons. As it stands, when I first read the book, I loved the idea that one’s daemon would be “opposite”–but now many years later, I find it limiting, frustrating, and frankly, hurtful in it’s approach to gender.

As for traditional gender roles, however, I do love that Philip Pullman is an equal opportunist, as Ana points out. I think there are similar gender role expectations in Lyra’s world–but damn, don’t Miss Coulter and Lyra break those restrictive buckets.

4. The Golden Compass is full of binary relationships and themes. Whether it be about a woman and her lost overseas father, or the very difference between Lyra’s universe and that of her world’s interdependence on other worlds–there is a lot to unpack here. What’s your understanding of the way that Lyra’s world works?

Ana: I am not sure that the first book delves so much into all the possibilities as yet – giving us only tantalizing morsels of information and most of it is enshrouded in mystery as the characters are purposefully keeping things from Lyra. That is actually one of the most interesting but frustrating aspects of the novel: the nature of what is happening to Lyra, and how it is all moved by an unspoken prophecy that predicts a child will change the world forever but only “if she doesn’t know she is doing it”. Hence, another binary or dichotomy we can discuss is the idea of free will vs destiny: is Lyra really that important and why? The book doesn’t break away from this just yet, the plot moving along to coordinate with this very idea. The bloody, tragic ending just one of the ways that the worldbuilding fucks Lyra up.

Thea: Philip Pullman likes his binary relationships. I noticed this a lot in this first book–but I agree that Lyra is like the centerpiece of a wheel with many outward radiating spokes that represent these binary relationships. There’s her lost father, and her feelings after her world is upended. There’s the intensity of her relationship with Pantalaimon (and the things Pan knows that Lyra does not or only subconsciously notices). There’s the fascinating layered relationship with Miss Coulter, and on and on. The prophecy adds a depth to all of this and enhances these 1:1 relationships–and yes, it’s all SUPER messed up when we get to that horrible silver guillotine and everything else the horrid church and Coulter have been insidiously executing.

5. What’s your favorite thing about the novel?

Ana: JUST THE ONE? I think maybe the witches? I love Serafina even though we only see a bit of her. And also maybe the bears and how Lyra got around tricking them/saving them? I admit this is now two favourites AND ALSO THE ENDING. Ok, three.

Thea: I love the subtle flashes of OTHER WORLDS and the importance of these other universes that we only start to see in this book thanks to the Dust, the alethiometer, and Lord Asriel’s ambition. Well, that and the swing between joy (Lyra riding triumphantly with the mighty Iofur Raknison towards her goal) and horror (what Lyra discovers is actually happening and her father’s obsession).


Ana: Torn between 8 and 9. Will go with 8

Thea: 8 – Excellent and I know it’s only getting better from here, baby.


Now over to you! Please feel free to engage with the questions (and our answers), come up with your own talking points, and/or please leave links to your reviews!

The post Old School Wednesdays: The Golden Compass/Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
([personal profile] mrkinch Sep. 20th, 2017 03:02 pm)
Went out with U, DW, and one other for the first time since early July, starting at 8:30 am. It was overcast with no wind so I went out in a t-shirt, a canvas shirt, and my trusty neckwarmer and was fine. No goddamned warblers nor any migrants save a Pacific-slope flycatcher or possibly two, and here it's the goddamned equinox. Very frustrating. A nice list of residents: )

Experiments in carrying bins )
splix: (isabella blow)
([personal profile] splix Sep. 20th, 2017 10:55 am)
A little Pearl Jam for ya there. I used to be all into them in the 90s, even saw them at Lollapalooza in 1992. Now I can't bear listening to them, or honestly a lot of music from that period. So. Fucking. Depressing! Thank god I discovered electronica and techno halfway through the decade.

I'm finally bouncing back from my last bout of chemo, which was last Monday, a week and a half ago. Worst one yet, whoo! It was compounded by the cold I caught from my student employee. I guess I was lucky to make it through without getting sick thus far, immunocompromised as I am. Whatever, at least I'm feeling better now, and the metallic grossness in my mouth is beginning to dissipate. And I [hopefully, hopefully] just have one more to go. \0/ eyelashes are beginning to grow back, which is so great. You guys have no idea how important eyelashes are, and I don't mean just aesthetically, though that is nice [and to me, almost as pleasing as the hair on my scalp]. They really do protect your eyes from dust and grit. If I didn't wear glasses most of the time I'd be tearing up constantly from all the crud in them.


The mornings are lovely and brisk. It's almost October! And almost time to start decorating the office for Halloween. SO EXCITED. Halloween is the BEST. This year, because we share space with IT now that our new building is in the process of construction, we are joining forces. They usually go crazy with spiderwebs, and I usually do full-on Gothic, so that'll be fun. I will pull all my post-mortem framed photos out of storage, and all my black spray-painted flowers and gilt candelabra and skulls and black drapery and little velvet and glitter and feathery ravens. We have a lot less surface area this year, but we'll make it work. :D


I still have my summer clothes out because it's still in the high eighties and low 90s during the day, but next week it's supposed to get down into the low seventies! Oh my goodness. Of course then we'll get hit by a wave of nothing but 93 degree weather.

This weekend, at least, I intend to transition from spring/summer to fall/winter perfumes. CAN'T WAIT. My fall/winter perfumes are a thousand times more awesome anyhoo.


My older sister and I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the cinema the day before I had my last chemo. I hadn't seen it in...oh, at LEAST fifteen years, I imagine. I forgot how good it was, though I had to close my eyes at the parts with the worms, AAAAAGH. And...were those really Ricardo Montalban's pecs? Once and for all. Cause if they were, he was cut, man. It was SO much better than Into Darkness. Sorry Benny! I love you and all, but there were years of history behind STII and genuine relationships behind the drama. I had tears pouring down my face at the end, and then, of course, I had to go home and watch the best vid ever.

Le sigh.


In news, a few days ago a girl came in wearing shorts that revealed the entire bottom half of her ass. Now, I genuinely want to not give a fuck about other people's fashion choices, and I don't consider myself terribly prudish, but I couldn't stop boggling. I mean, she had a nice ass and everything, so props for that...? But this was the ENTIRE BOTTOM HALF OF HER ASS. I mean, she might as well have worn a thong and left it at that. No bueno, muchacha. You're not on Spring Break. -___-


Speaking of Benny, I saw the trailer for The Current War and it looks sort of, um, boring. I'll go to see it, and I hope it's good, but I'm skeptical. If even a trailer is deadly dull, I'm terrified for the prospects of the actual movie. But I have a MoviePass, so movies are a lot cheaper if I go to see more nowadays. I am looking forward to seeing The Child in Time, though. That looks good, even though I'm not generally a fan of Ian MacEwan.

I think BC is hotter when he does flashy roles like Sherlock. I thought the same about Ewan McGregor - I loved him way more in roles like Obi-Wan and Curt Wild than in roles where he played a writer or a reporter or whatever. I suppose that says more about me and my preferences than about the actors I like.


I started watching The Defenders and got bored after the third one. I realized I was really only watching for Matt Murdock and there wasn't enough of him in it to satisfy me. If someone makes a Matt-only edit, LMK. Oh, and if they included Sigourney Weaver and Rosario Dawson that would be cool too, but the rest of them, meh. I don't even care about Jessica Jones anymore. :-/ I don't know what happened. It feels like it's trying too hard or something to be edgy, and I can't stand the dull-as-Wonder-Bread guy who plays Iron Fist at ALL.

God, I sound so cranky. I don't mean to dump on it, I just don't think it's for me anymore. :(


So, I decided to wear a wig today, because it's been freezing in the office, and a wig is way warmer than a bandana or scarf. I could wear a woolly hat, but I've got the wig, might as well wear it. And one of my death cafe pals, a cancer survivor, had a wig she never wore, so she gave it to me, so now I have two. Pics under cut )


I wrote last night - 1500 words! It would be great to finish my chapter this evening. I'm close to completing my CP story. I feel so guilty for taking so damn long with it. :-/


At my therapist's recommendation, I am taking up the heavy bag in order to purge some anger. I have obtained an empty canvas punching bag from one of the guys at work - need to fill it with cotton rags or old towels or blankets or something, which won't be a problem - yay thrift stores. And, I have purchased MMA gloves and PINK. Of course in pink! I want to hang the bag outside, but I'll have to wrap it in a tarp or something so it doesn't get all gross. Not that we get a lot of rain or snow, sheesh.

I'm looking forward to it. I need this, mentally. And honestly, I could use the upper body workout. I literally do NOTHING for my upper body. I need a power playlist.


I suppose that's all the news that's fit to print for now. Hope you're all having a wonderful day and night.

Posted by Ana

Hello and a Happy Wednesday to all!

Today, we are proud to be hosting an exclusive excerpt from Weaver’s Lament, an upcoming novella by Emma Newman, sequel to the excellent Brother’s Ruin!


Chapter 1

Charlotte was certain she was going to die. She’d thought the threat of Royal Society Enforcers was the most terrifying thing she’d ever experienced, but that was nothing compared to travelling by train. Now she understood why her grandmother had always crossed herself whenever anyone mentioned the rapidly expanding rail network.

She’d been fine in the first few minutes of the journey, when the train had pulled away from Euston station in a stately fashion, even excited. She’d looked out on transport sheds and then houses, with a sense of adventure blooming in her chest. It wasn’t so bad; it was bumpy and noisy as the carriage rattled over the rails, but only a little faster than an omnibus. Quite why her father had looked so concerned when he’d helped her into the carriage, she’d had no idea.

Twenty minutes into the journey, as the city thinned and the countryside opened up, the train had built speed until the greenery at the side of the track was a blur. Surely nothing could go so fast and be safe? No wonder her mother had been so put out by Ben’s letter, asking his sister to visit him in Manchester.

“But you’ll have to go on the train!” she’d squawked. “It’s such a long way! Why can’t he come to visit us here?”

“Because he’s not allowed,” Charlotte had replied, reading the letter from her brother again. It seemed like a simple invitation, but the fact that he’d asked only for her made Charlotte nervous. Surely he missed their parents too? She feared he was getting ill again and struggling to cope. After the success of being accepted into the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts, she could imagine his reluctance to admit any weakness, especially considering the exorbitant amount of money they’d paid her family as compensation. She remembered how proud he’d been, even though it had been her magical skill, not his, that had earned him a place in the College of Dynamics and changed their family’s fortune.

“But I thought he wasn’t allowed to see us,” Father had said. “Something must be wrong. I should go with you.”

Charlotte knew Ben would be furious if she brought anyone else with her. “No, Papa, I’ll go by myself. If there was a problem, he’d have been sent home. We’d know about it. He’s probably missing us and can’t risk the entire family going to see him.”

So much concern over one simple invitation, but it was no surprise. They’d all been worrying about him, and with the six-month mark of his training as a magus coming up, they were all afraid that his previous pattern would resurface; he’d last a few months away from home and then fall deathly ill again.

“I’m not sure it’s proper for you to travel alone, Charlotte,” Mother had said. “We’re a respectable family now. We live in the West End. People will talk.”

She’d laughed. “Mother, no one will even notice I’m gone! Even George is too busy to see me this week.”

Her fiancé’s review was on Friday and he was desperate to earn his promotion to registrar. She was certain he’d succeed; the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages could not have a more dedicated clerk. But there was more at stake than his professional pride; he was adamant that they could not marry unless he was earning a decent salary in a secure position. Not even the offer of help from her parents, now very well off thanks to the compensation from the Royal Society for taking Ben, would dissuade him. “It’s a matter of principle, darling,” he’d said to her. “If I cannot provide a good life for my wife right from the start, I don’t deserve to marry.”

Charlotte would have been happy to live in a tiny terraced house back over on the other side of the city, where they used to live before the windfall, but she was willing to be patient. Life in the west of the city was surprisingly different. Her mother was so much happier there—she’d been able to give up sewing—and the house was larger, with a better landlord. But with the improvement of their circumstances came a strange set of ideas that Charlotte simply didn’t share. Her mother seemed to think that living in the West End meant they had to go promenading in the park on Sunday afternoons after church. The colour of their curtains had to be fashionable, they had to have a maid—even though they’d been perfectly fine without one before—and Charlotte had to take care of her reputation. It seemed that taking the train alone would somehow endanger it. Charlotte was certain that her secret career as an illustrator would not fit in with her mother’s ideas about how she should conduct herself, either.

“I will put her on the train at Euston,” Father had said, elbow resting on the large mantelpiece, pipe in hand. “Benjamin will meet her at London Road station in Manchester. The London and North Western railway company has trains that go straight there with no changes. We’ll make sure he knows which train she will be on.”

“I shall go tomorrow,” Charlotte had said. “Then I can be back for Friday, so I can be there for George after his review.”

“That’s settled, then,” Father had said between puffs. It seemed that, for him, their change in fortune had translated to that particular pose and unfortunately smelly habit.

Now she wished her father had come with her, if only just so she would have someone to talk to. She’d brought her sketchbook, handkerchiefs to embroider and some crochet, but was unable to put her hand to any of them. Even though the terror had subsided to a constant tension and a gasp every time the carriage lurched on a corner, it was still too bumpy for her to do anything save look out the window.

Growing accustomed to the speed, Charlotte was getting used to focusing her attention out towards the horizon. It was a beautiful May morning when she left Euston and she was filled with hope as she looked out over the verdant countryside. The hedgerows were flowering, the fresh new leaves on the trees were her favourite shade of pale green and she could see lambs gambolling in the fields. George would be promoted and they would have a spring wedding and it would be perfect. As they sped through the midlands, the sky darkened and the view was obscured by driving rain. At least she was in an enclosed first class carriage. Her grandfather had told her about the old third class carriage he’d travelled in once, open to the elements during a terrible thunderstorm. She shivered at the mere thought of it.

Daydreaming about her wedding and enjoying the view could only keep her fears for Ben at bay for so long. The compartment was relatively small, seating six comfortably, and had its own door. She was lonely, yet always relieved when no one got in to share it with her at a station. She wouldn’t know what to do if a man travelling alone got in with her. She hoped another young woman would share the rest of the journey, providing company without any fear of unwelcome attention, but she was still alone hours later when the train pulled into Crewe. A comfort stop of ten minutes was announced, but she didn’t want to leave her luggage unattended, so she watched the other passengers instead. She was desperate for a cup of tea and a bun, but she decided to wait until she arrived so she could share that with Ben.

Charlotte was just starting to change her mind when she spotted a familiar flash of blond hair against a black satin collar. She jolted in her seat as she realised the man leaving the compartment next to hers was none other than Magus Hopkins, her secret tutor. The sight of him brought the usual tumult of guilt and excitement. The sense of guilt had started months before, when he’d discovered she’d helped to con the Royal Society into thinking her brother was far more magically gifted than he was. It was a permanent emotion now, reinforced every time they met in secret, even though it was only so he could teach her how to control her own ability without turning wild.

Charlotte watched him stride towards the station café along with many other passengers. Her heart pounded, as it always did when she saw him. She scowled at the back of his burgundy frock coat, silently cursing the perfection of his silhouette. Like every time she saw him, she was seized by the desire to draw him. Charlotte knew she must never give in to it. Bad enough that she even considered it.

When Hopkins was out of sight, she leaned back so he wouldn’t be able to see her through the window of her carriage when he returned to the train. Had he followed her? Surely not! She’d left a note in the usual hiding place, explaining that she couldn’t meet him that week, but hadn’t said anything about the reason why.

A knock on the window made her jump and she felt her face flush red when she saw a burgundy velvet cuff. She pulled the window down as Magus Hopkins doffed his top hat to her.

“Why, Miss Gunn, it is you!” he said with a cheery smile. “What an extraordinary coincidence!”

“Indeed,” she said, trying to hide her delight at seeing his face by frowning most deeply. “What brings you to Crewe?”

“Oh, I’m going to Manchester,” he said, patting his hat back into place. “My compartment is next to yours. We’ve been neighbours all the way from Euston, it would seem.”

She folded her arms. “Magus Hopkins, this is too much of a coincidence for me to bear. Why have you followed me?”

His eyebrows shot up behind the brim of his hat. “Followed you? Quite the contrary, Miss Gunn. I’ve been invited to assist with the design of a new clock tower. The Manchester Reform Club has proposed something quite ambitious.”

It sounded plausible enough; his specialisation in the Fine Kinetic arts was the design of efficient timepieces. The Royal Society held the Queen’s charter for the maintenance, measurement and accuracy of nationalised timekeeping, necessitated by the rise in popularity of the railways. Now that the country could be crossed in a matter of hours, localised time at individual towns and cities was no longer acceptable. The trains, in turn, were a product of research funded by the College of Thermaturgy, and one of their magi would be at the front of the train now, using Esoteric arts to keep the boiler at exactly the right temperature. Between the three colleges of the Royal Society, England—and indeed, the Empire—were evolving at an astounding rate.

No matter how plausible the reason, Charlotte didn’t believe him. But then she considered how she was simply one secret in his life, not the centre of it. She doubted that her comings and goings were of as much interest to him as he was to her. She shouldn’t be so vain.

“May I ask what takes you to the North, Miss Gunn?”

She couldn’t tell him the real reason. Ben could get into trouble if his supervisors knew he’d written to her. “I’m visiting a relative,” she said. “My aunt. Vera. My aunt Vera.”

His lip twitched in that maddening, charming way it did whenever he disbelieved her. “Oh, really? I confess, when I spotted you on the way to the café, I was certain you’d be on your way to visit your brother. He’s been assigned to a mill in Manchester, has he not?”

That was more than she knew. “I have no idea,” she replied truthfully. “Apprentices aren’t permitted to disclose their whereabouts to relatives, as you know.”

“Shame,” Hopkins said, glancing down the platform as other passengers started to return to their compartments. “I’ve heard some rather alarming rumours about a couple of the cotton mills there. It would have been interesting to know if there was any truth to them.”

“What rumours?”

He waved a hand, dismissively. “All hearsay, no doubt. But of course, it’s of no relevance to your dear aunt.”

The twinkle in his eye infuriated her. Must he always tease her so? “If my brother were—purely hypothetically—serving his apprenticeship in one of those mills, would he be in danger?”

“I would not be content if someone I loved were involved in their operation.”

She bit her lip. She knew he was steering her again, as was his wont, but she couldn’t let her pride interfere when it came to Ben’s safety. “Please, Magus Hopkins, if there’s something I should know about my brother’s apprenticeship, do tell me. Is this Ledbetter’s doing? Is it something to do with that awful cage he was involved in?”

Magus Ledbetter was the one who had recruited her brother into the College of Dynamics, an odious man whose marque was embossed on a cage that killed debtors. With the help of Magus Hopkins, she’d been able to save her father from that fate, but not her brother from Ledbetter’s clutches. As much as she feared for Ben’s health away from home, she also feared that Ledbetter would corrupt his gentle heart.

Hopkins became serious. “The mills are the province of the College of Dynamics, you understand. They wouldn’t appreciate the likes of me knowing about any difficulties they may have, let alone my telling another.”

Charlotte slid to the edge of her seat, closing the distance between them. “You said that we would work together, rooting out the likes of Ledbetter and his despicable activities. If there is anything like that cage happening where my brother is apprenticed I insist you tell me.”

“He’s asked you for help, hasn’t he?”

She looked away, torn. “He’s asked me to visit,” she confessed. “He didn’t say anything in the letter, but he asked only for me. I’m very worried.”

He nodded, satisfied with the truth. She hated breaking her brother’s confidence, but Hopkins had not let her down yet. “There have been several unusual accidents that can’t be ascribed to mechanical failure nor to human error. The accounts that have reached me speak of something sinister at play and—”

“Is this gentleman bothering you, Miss?”

Charlotte leaned back as the station guard came into view. “Thank you for your concern, but we are acquainted.”

The guard doffed his cap at both her and Hopkins. “Begging your pardon, sir, Miss, but I like to keep an eye out for any young ladies travelling alone.”

“Most considerate of you,” Hopkins said. “I was simply doing the same.”

“The train will be moving on shortly,” the guard said. “May I suggest you return to your compartment, sir?”

Hopkins doffed his hat to Charlotte again. “I wish you a very pleasant stay in Manchester, Miss Gunn.” He looked as if he were about to go, but reconsidered. “And mark my words, Miss Gunn. You are likely to see things in Manchester that will upset you, and possibly test even a saint’s temper. Best to keep your mind on higher things.”

He was warning her to be mindful of his teachings and remember her own marque. As an untrained latent magus, the risk of turning wild was omnipresent for her. In the months that had passed since Ben’s test, she knew she was getting more powerful, and Hopkins had confirmed as much. He had taught her the technique her brother would also have learned to manage his ability. Like all the magi, she’d developed her own personal symbol, what the Royal Society referred to as a “marque.” It was meaningful only to her, and focusing upon it helped to rein in her latent ability. It would also, in time, mean that she’d be able to influence objects at a distance, even out of her sight.

She wanted to ask Hopkins to come into the compartment with her so they could continue the conversation, but she didn’t dare do something so scandalous in front of the guard. Besides, Ben was meeting her at the station, and if he met her straight of the train, he’d recognise Hopkins. They’d met when Ben was tested. All she could do was give a faint smile and say, “Thank you, Magus Hopkins. I will bear that in mind.”

The guard saw Hopkins to his compartment and gave her a kindly smile as he walked off down the platform. Charlotte wished she’d gotten that cup of tea after all. She needed one now more than ever.

Chapter 2

The crowded platform at London Road station was both a blessing and a curse. It reduced any chance that Ben might have had to spot Hopkins, but it also made it very difficult for her to be seen, too.

It was easy to pick Ben out in the crowd, as he stood at least a foot taller than many of the men there. But no matter how much she waved at him, he simply didn’t see her. She dragged her bag from her compartment and stood on it, taking off her bonnet to flap it at him. At last, he waved at her and made his way over, cutting through the crowd like a tea clipper.

He picked her up and span her around. “Charlie Bean!” he cheered. “Oh, I am so very glad to see you!”

“Put me down, silly!” Charlotte laughed, worried that far too much of her petticoat lace was in plain sight. She beamed up at him when he put her down.

He looked so well! Better than she’d ever seen him, in fact. His gaunt cheeks had filled out and even taken on a rosy hue. His dark brown hair was shining, his sideburns and moustache neatly clipped, his back straight. The coat hanger quality of his shoulders had gone and he filled out his shirt and frock coat with a broad chest. His arms had felt strong when he’d picked her up. He was the very picture of health.

“How was the journey?”

“Terrifying,” she said, and he chuckled. “It improved once I got used to it. Could you wave that porter over?”

“No need,” he said, picking up her bag as if it contained tissue paper. “There are splendid tearooms down the road. Are you thirsty?”

“Parched,” she said, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow. “It’s so lovely to see you again!”

Charlotte clung to him as he led her through the crowd, Hopkins nowhere to be seen in the throng of passengers. They passed happy reunions and tearful farewells, until at last they made it out onto the street.

Ben disentangled himself from her. “I’m afraid we shouldn’t be seen to be close, out on the street,” he said. “Sorry, Charlie, I quite forgot myself there. I shouldn’t have embraced you like that. Not in public.”

She looked around them, but no one seemed to be paying any attention. “I understand,” she said.

Out on the street, the red-bricked buildings made her feel a world away from the fine Georgian stone and grey bricks of London. The street was pulsing with people and the thoroughfare was clogged with horse-drawn carriages and omnibuses. The skyline was dominated by mills several storeys high, mixed with rows of workers’ cottages and slums. The smell was most unpleasant, and Charlotte couldn’t help but think of miasma. Only two years before, thousands had died here from cholera.

Despite the overcrowding and filth of the city, she was happy to be there. It was such a relief to see Ben well. The ominous comments Hopkins had made about the mills seemed irrelevant now. Ben seemed full of confidence and people moved out of their way as he approached. He wore the red-and-black-striped cravat of a Dynamics apprentice, and those who noticed it stared at him as they passed with looks of envy, fear, and respect. How different it was from the last time they’d walked down a street together and she’d had to practically carry him home. This time she was hurrying to keep up.

She was glad when he guided her towards the doors of the Heywood Tea Rooms. “You must try an Eccles cake,” he said as he held the door open for her. “They are quite extraordinary.”

It was a very large establishment, filled with tables covered in crisp white linen waited on by pretty women in smart uniforms. Along the back wall, there were private booths. Charlotte suspected they were the reason he’d brought her here. When Ben asked one of the waitresses to seat them in the one in the far corner, she was certain of it.

He ordered tea for two and Eccles cakes for both of them.

“Mother and Father send their love,” she said, watching him cast an eye over the room and the rest of the patrons.

Relaxing, Ben gave her his full attention. “Did they make a fuss about you coming to visit?”

“Of course. They’re both well. George, too—he has his review for promotion on Friday. We’re hoping for a spring wedding. And there’s going to be another collection by the author of Love, Death and Other Magicks and I’ve been commissioned to illustrate it. That’s all my news, now you tell me everything!”

The waitress arrived with their order and Ben waited until she’d left again. He sighed at the way Charlotte prodded the Eccles cake. “It’s got lots of currants inside. You’ll like it.”

“When you said ‘cake’ I was expecting a sponge, not something covered in flaked pastry.” She stirred the teapot. “When I got your letter I was worried you’d fallen ill again.”

“I’ve never felt better.”

The first pour from the pot was enough to tell her it hadn’t brewed long enough. She nibbled at the edge of the pastry and took a larger bite, weathering his “I told you so” expression with as much grace as she could muster. She looked at him expectantly, deciding not to say another word until he started talking.

Instead, he stirred the teapot, too, and then poured for both of them. She took another bite and looked at the rest of the tearooms. Perhaps everything was actually just fine, and she’d got herself into a stew over nothing.

“Charlie, I need your help.”

Perhaps not. She looked at him, at his healthy glow, and saw genuine worry in his eyes. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s all been going so well,” he said. “I was so nervous when I left home, I didn’t eat for the first couple of days. But then I made a friend, and I settled in and . . . it’s difficult, dear heart; we’re not really supposed to tell an outsider about anything we do.”

Outsider? The word stung. She pushed the feeling down as best she could. “I understand. Has something gone wrong? Is it your friend?”

“No, no, nothing like that. It was very difficult at the start, I won’t lie. I struggled terribly but then I had a real breakthrough, and since then I’ve been doing so well, Charlie. Ledbetter says I’m one of the most promising students he’s had for years. Oh, don’t look like that! Surely you’re not still harbouring that grudge against him!”

“He is not a good man,” she said firmly.

“Is this some nonsense about him taking me away from you?”

“Oh, what rot! I’m not a child, Ben!”

“Then tell me what you have against him!”

She picked up her teacup, knowing she could never tell him about that awful debtor’s cage. It would put him in an impossible position, and she couldn’t risk his success. Now that the Royal Society had recruited him, he could never leave. She wasn’t prepared to make his life there a misery, and it would be, if he knew what his mentor was really like. “It’s just a feeling I have,” she finally said, hating the insipid statement. “You’ve been doing well,” she said, trying to bring him back on topic, if only to take the look of exasperation from his face. “So why did you send for me? Are you lonely? Homesick?”

He shook his head, clearly struggling to confess his troubles. He was such a loyal soul. It didn’t stop her from wanting to shake him until he spat it all out, though. She took out her frustration on the cake instead.

“I’ve been apprenticed to a cotton mill,” he finally said, “and it’s been going very well. Very well indeed.”

“Darling”—she reached across to hold his hand—“you don’t have to keep saying that.”

He sighed. “I don’t want you to think I can’t cope. I can, I swear it. In fact, I’ve never been happier.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Ben! Just tell me!”

He pulled his hand back and leaned forwards to whisper over the teapot. “There have been a few . . . incidents at the mill. Not on my shifts, I hasten to add. Looms have been destroyed and none of the witnesses are willing to tell us who did it. They’re all covering something up.”

“Have you spoken to Ledbetter about it?”

“I tried. He just kept brushing me off. I’m only an apprentice, Charlie. No one listens to me and no one explains anything to me except exactly what I need to know.”

“It sounds like it’s all out of your hands.”

“If only it were that simple. I’m being put up to the next level of apprenticeship, which means I won’t just be working the line shaft, I’ll be supervising the running of the mill as a whole. Ledbetter has a system, you see, to push the best apprentices to the top faster. I’ve been chosen as one of the final two. Myself and another apprentice, Paxton, are going to be competing against each other. I cannot risk one of these incidents happening when I’m responsible for the mill.”

“Is there no one you can confide in? Is that why you asked me to come?”

He poured more tea. “No, that’s not it. Charlie, it’s more complicated than that. We believe the looms are being destroyed by saboteurs.”
“Like the Luddites? Darling, all of that stopped well before we were born!”

“Not Luddites, trade unionists. And more than that, socialists.” He looked around the tearoom again, lowering his voice further. “There are secret organisations springing up all over the country, determined to wreak havoc. They hate the Royal Society and want to destroy us. They argue that we have too much power and that parliament values the needs of the Royal Society above those of the common man. It’s dangerous, Charlie. Sedition, that’s what it is. And I’m convinced they have a secret group working at the mill. They have a great number of sympathisers among the workforce, and that’s why none of them will out the culprits.”

Want to destroy us . . . His words widened the gap between them. Sedition? Socialists? It sounded more like sensationalism to her. Was the pressure getting to him? “Darling, is there something you want me to do? I can’t see how I can help.”

He lifted the pot to pour tea before realising he’d only just done that. She steeled herself. What was he finding so difficult to say?
“Charlie, I need you to come and work at the mill.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I need you to pretend you’re not my sister and just be one of them. One of the workers. I need someone on the inside, and you’re so kind and people open up to you so easily.”

“Good lord! You want me to be a spy?”

He twitched and looked around the room yet again. No one was sitting close enough to them to listen in. “Keep your voice down! I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t absolutely imperative. Please, Charlie. None of them will talk to me because I’m a magus. Ledbetter has said that if neither Paxton nor I root out the saboteurs, he’ll consider us to be socialist sympathisers. Paxton is a snake, and I am certain he’s already trying to pin it all on me. I caught him going through the drawers in my room the other day. He didn’t take anything but it’s clear he aims to win this round and be fully qualified, no matter the cost.” He reached across the table and took her hands. She was shocked to feel them shaking. “Charlie . . . if Paxton pins the socialist problem on me, Ledbetter will have me prosecuted for aiding and abetting sedition.”

“But that’s utterly ridiculous! Why waste a good apprentice on such an exercise when it isn’t your fault?”

“Because he has to make an example. And he has to get to the bottom of it all. Threatening us with transportation is an excellent motivator. In Ledbetter’s opinion, anyway.”

Charlotte felt sick. “Transportation? To Australia?”

He nodded, just as pale-faced as she was. “I doubt I would survive the voyage. You know how sickly I used to be. Packed into a boat with criminals rife with disease, I’d be done for.”

“Shush,” she said, squeezing his hands. “It doesn’t bear thinking about.” Her misgivings about being a spy faded into insignificance, now that she understood the threat to him.

“You’re the only person I can trust completely to tell me who is responsible for the sabotage. I have to root them out, Charlie, before Paxton finds a way to pin it all on me. If I win this round, Ledbetter will pass me for full qualification. Paxton won’t be able to touch me. And when I’m fully qualified, I’ll be able to apply for funding to build my own mill, with his support. Then I can earn enough money to support you and Mother and Father.”

“I don’t need you to support me. I’ll have George.”

Ben leaned back. “You haven’t told him, then. About your gift.”

She dabbed at her lips with her napkin. “I am not going to discuss that with you. I have everything under control. I’ll help, darling, of course I will. But I have heard some horrible stories about mills . . .”

“The London rags exaggerate things terribly,” he said. “And it won’t be for more than a couple of days. You’re such a good judge of character, you’ll spot who the ringleader is quickly, I’m sure you will.”

“So now I’m a good judge of character? Even though you don’t believe me about Ledbetter?” There was a long pause, long enough for her to regret her tone. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is all a bit of a shock. I thought I was going to have nurse you back to health, not go and work in a mill.”

“I know this is horribly selfish of me,” Ben said. “But I’m desperate, Charlie. Help me to find the ringleader, and I’ll make sure you’ll never want for anything ever again.”

She tutted at him. “I won’t help you for financial gain, you fool. I’ll do it because I love you.”

His relief brightened his whole face. She could see how much it weighed upon him. “Thank you, dear heart, thank you. I promise it won’t be for more than a couple of days. I’ll take care of all the arrangements. Let’s have supper somewhere first, though, shall we?”

Charlotte nodded, feeling bad that she’d made him think she’d only agreed out of love for him. Hopkins said something strange was happening at the mills, and he’d made it sound like something esoteric, rather than political. She was determined to find something that could be used against Ledbetter, something she could take to Hopkins so they could build a case. The hope that it would impress her handsome tutor had nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Copyright © 2017 by Emma Newman

About the Author

EMMA NEWMAN writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma’s acclaimed Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards for Best Novel and Emma was nominated for Best Newcomer. Her latest novel is Planetfall.Emma is a professional audio book narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy’ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and role playing games.

Weaver’s Lament is out October 17 2017 from

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Posted by Ana

Hello everybody! We are literally half way through our campaign at literally 50% – what BEAUTIFUL symmetry.


We have added new rewards – and there is only one of each and once they are gone, they ARE GONE! There are signed copies of Maureen Johnson’s upcoming new book Truly, Devious; Provenance, the new upcoming book from Ann Leckie, the two Heroine books by Sarah Kuhn, and lots more.

We also added a super new upper level reward for super fans of Megan Whalen Turner and it includes all of her books in the new covers which will be signed for the person who get its PLUS a signed map of the Queen’s Thief World. AND all of the short stories we ever publish and will publish in 2018 added to the pack. Go over there to check it out!

With a huge thank you for your support so far and a LET’S DO THIS THING cry for help, we are

~your friendly neighborhood book smugglers

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Posted by Thea

The Mutant’s Apprentice is an essay from Bogi Takács, a Hungarian Jewish agender trans author who writes SFF, poetry, and commentary. This essay first appeared in the fourth volume of our Quarterly Almanac.


The Mutant’s Apprentice

While there are many possible social configurations related to magic in speculative literature, some patterns do crop up more frequently than others. Where do magical people fit into a social order?

One possibility is that they exist on the fringes or outside of it. We often see magic-users portrayed as an oppressed underclass, hated and feared because of their powers. Sometimes, the only way for them to acquire a semblance of social standing is to join a guild or association of some sort—this is especially common in science-fantasy treatments of superheroes and/or psychic powers. The Psi Corps of Babylon 5 and the various mutant organizations of the Marvel universe all fall under this umbrella; this trope is so common that TV Tropes even has a page titled “Super Registration Act.” But what is so appealing about it?


Why the oppression?

Magic-users, superheroes and similar characters experience marginalization in these contexts: they are forced into an organization that in turn dictates their behavior. The registration is almost never optional, and attempting to opt out turns you renegade—a common nexus in the stories of many supervillains.

Especially in comics, Registration Acts are often used to talk about racism without the need to bring the potentially volatile topic of real-world races into the plot. A very salient example: the land of Genosha in The Uncanny X-Men was explicitly designed to introduce issues of slavery. In Genosha, mutants were registered to be enslaved and their powers were used for all sorts of labor, even powering public transportation—to the horror of the X-Men, some of whom were themselves captured by the oppressive Genoshans and had to fight their way free. This storyline, part of the classic run of The Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont and penciled by Marc Silvestri, played both textually and visually into slavery and apartheid themes, while still having a mostly white cast.

The original creators and lead writers of many superheroes, like Stan Lee or Chris Claremont, were Jewish: privileged enough in an American context to find a place in mainstream comics, but not so privileged as to be able to ignore the realities of marginalization. Judging from their storylines, they presumably thought that comics discussing oppression could inculcate young readers against racially based hatred. But they needed to avoid the sometimes very explicit censorship of the Comics Code Authority.

The self-policing attempts of the American mainstream comics industry were from the very beginning directed to avoid direct discussion of racism among other “sensitive” topics. One of the first incidents of a comic not meeting code requirements was also related to a Jewish writer. Al Feldstein wrote about American racism in his 1953 short story Judgment Day; specifically anti-Black racism and segregation, in a context of fantastic races. A human astronaut meets racism among “orange and blue” alien robots and defies it—in the last panel of the comic, the astronaut is revealed to be Black. Feldstein rejected regulatory demands to whitewash the astronaut. The story was published, but Feldstein’s publishing company was driven out of business. Fantastic and real-world racism were not deemed suitable to co-occur.

But as the restrictions on American comics gradually eased, and the Comics Code Authority itself was eventually dismantled, treating fantastic oppression as a stand-in for real-world oppression remained as a de facto industry convention. Many stories adopted it with seemingly little awareness of its origins as a direct attempt by minority creators to subvert majority norms about what was deemed acceptable discourse in comics. At the moment, Marvel is even experimenting with the “edgy” plot twists of making multiple superheroes with anti-racist origins suddenly allied with Hydra, the Marvel universe’s de facto Nazis.

In the X-Men, there is ample tension between the white Professor X, who wants to cooperate with non-mutants, and the Jewish Magneto, who buckles their authority. This tension was themed on the divisions between Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, explicitly by some of the writers and implicitly by others—as examined in Phenderson Djèlí Clark’s thorough article On Malcolm, Martin and that X-Men Analogy Thing. But did these analogies succeed in inculcating an awareness of civil rights issues in white American readers? When observing present-day fan conversations, we are often left with the feeling that this did not happen.

Now that present-day superhero comics are becoming more open to minority creators and especially creators of color, this increased openness is met with resistance mostly from vocal groups of young white male fans. They do not want discussions of race or gender, they do not want “identity politics.” Has the original social-justice point entirely been missed?

I would argue that the points and mechanisms of oppression were not lost on the majority readers, even these particular majority readers. But the fact that the oppressed group was fictional, allowed readers to empathize with the oppressed heroes while being committed to perpetuating real-world oppression. Identifying with oppressed superheroes and other exceptional, magical or psychic people also means you are identifying with them on the basis of an inborn characteristic, like skin color—but unlike skin color, one that is explicitly tied to exceptionality. Mutants, magic-users etc. in these storylines have more power than the mundane majority. This power in itself leads to them being subjugated—and this makes the mutants somewhat like fans, who have the amazing knowledge and powers of fandom (which the explicitly “mundane” mundanes entirely miss), but who are derided and ridiculed.

This connection between mutants and fans was made early on in fandom, in the 1940s. Van Vogt’s classic SF novel Slan, depicting telepathic mutants—the slans cruelly oppressed by the non-telepathic majority—became a fan favorite, inspiring the rallying cry “Fans are slans!”

Majority readers could feel oppressed due to being geeks—an argument especially commonly made by people targeting minority fans today. These majority fans could thus avoid discussion of real-world oppression. That this avoidance was deliberate became apparent when said discussion of real-world oppression increasingly began to appear in mainstream comics in the past couple of years. Instead of lauding breakout titles like G. Willow Wilson’s ongoing run of Ms. Marvel, where Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani-American Muslim teenage girl, many of these readers expressed vocal opposition—as chronicled for example in Angelica Jade Bastién’s essay For Women of Color, the Price of Fandom Can Be Too High, in the New Republic.

Ultimately, the Comics Code was more successful in shaping trends than the efforts of individual creators to buckle it. Oppression became a power fantasy. We are oppressed because we are awesome? Many fans could identify with that, even as they perpetuated other kinds of oppression.

As we’ve seen above, these themes have been discussed by critics of speculative media, but another point hasn’t been tackled yet, to my knowledge. Why does the oppression of these exceptional groups so often take the form of an organization whose creation is decreed by law? I would argue that this is because Western-centric implicit assumptions about how societies develop and become more advanced.

I say Western-centric and not Anglo-centric or Euro-centric for a reason. These tendencies are broader than Anglo-Saxon countries, first of all, and they are not specific to Europe. Indeed, right now with SFF fandom being strongly centered in the US, they are more common in the US, and the word “Euro-centrism” often becomes an elaborate, subtle dodge of uniquely American responsibility—even though it was not originally intended as such, but rather as a term highlighting the effects of colonialism.


Why an organization?

Present-day Western societies prize the rule of law as something that mitigates the abuses of excessive social power. As the facade of the Harvard Law School library proudly declares, “NON SVB HOMINE SED SVB DEO ET LEGE” —“not under man, but under God and the law,” a quotation attributed to thirteenth-century English legal scholar Henry of Bracton. What has been handled historically with social arrangements formalized to varying degrees, such as the feudal relationship between lord and vassal, now becomes impersonal.

We can see this development of Western thought recapitulated in fantasy literature, where as the setting nears a hypothesized present, so do magical apprenticeship-like structures turn into guilds, Prussian-style magical schools, and eventually organizations inspired by modern labor unions.

It is a telling and usually unexamined point that the end result of Superhero Registration tropes is not only a form of labor union, but also the fact that you need to join the union is portrayed as oppressive. We might want to take a moment to think about who ultimately benefits from these portrayals. Even when the labor union connection is made, writers often ignore that labor unions are not unquestioning tools of the regime, but have their own bargaining power—as portrayed in one of the few exceptions, the superhero novel Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow.

The assumption is that more formalized and bureaucratic structures are going to develop, unavoidably, naturally. That this assumption is entirely artificial becomes apparent when we take a look at many real-world magical traditions. In non-Western magical and/or mystical traditions, is often explicitly prohibited to form an organization or to disseminate knowledge to more than one person at a time. Just from my own cultural traditions: in Judaism, the mystical “workings of the Chariot” were permitted to be taught only one on one, in an apprenticeship-like structure. In traditional Hungarian shamanism, knowledge was passed on one-on-one from the teacher to the apprentice, and people who had this type of knowledge did not congregate but often avoided each other.

Following the trends of Western societies in general, Western occultism in particular has been predisposed toward organizations for hundreds of years—and while it is not unique in this respect, its templates for magical education and organization have influenced globally less dominant cultures. (Now you can study various reconstructions of Hungarian shamanism in a school-like setting. This would have been anathema even fifty years ago, when the last practitioners passed on, persecuted by staunchly atheist Communists or poked and prodded by curious folklorists.)

Apprenticeship-type stories do appear in speculative fiction, but almost invariably in quasi-Medieval, quasi-pastoral fantasy worlds. This is strongly implied to be a lesser form of social development. We see “the magician’s apprentice,” but we do not see the “psychic’s apprentice” or the “mutant’s apprentice.” Guilds and apprenticeships give way to industrialization and Prussian-style education as the only possible form of education.

The very few counterexamples sometimes portray apprenticeship as outright evil. In the Star Wars expanded universe, the Jedi have an organization and a magical school, while the “evil” Sith not only follow an apprenticeship form of training, but this is sometimes explicitly stated to be the reason to their downfall. Another twist on the “apprenticeship is evil” theme is that the apprentice often has to best their master, sometimes by killing the master outright—the reason why the Sith decline in number. But this is again not an absolute necessity: we can readily think of many craftsperson’s trades where apprenticeships are still common, and no one expects a restoration carpenter to battle their master to death with a hammer and a chisel! Or, about writing: hopefully writers are not supposed to duel their mentors for the title of “Supreme Writer,” there is room for many people even on the various different awards ballots. Why would it be different about magic or superpowers?

This kind of pitting magical or superpowered people against each other is again reminiscent of oppressive tactics used against all sorts of minorities. Divide and conquer, as the Romans said. A young student is either in the well-organized, well-regimented quasi-Prussian magical school—with echoes of residential schools for Indigenous children!—or is depicted as the detritus of history, with antiquated and dangerous practices. Dissent is not tolerated: even in far future organizations like the Psi Corps in Babylon 5, if you fall outside the structure, they hunt you down and this violent opposition is presented as par for the course and stemming “naturally” from your powers. And yes, shamanic practitioners in Hungarian villages did sometimes fight each other—but then they parted ways and went to their separate villages, one for each.

While we present-day, often minority writers are subverting many of the obviously colonialist, imperialist tropes, we still find ourselves facing so much that is implicitly embedded in storytelling structures until it becomes entirely invisible. Reexamining our writing, our fandoms, our most cherished SFF moments and themes can be a grueling task—as you can probably tell, I mostly quoted from media that was influential to me! But from this effort, hopefully new stories will grow.


Bogi Takács is a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person (e/em/eir/emself or they pronouns) who is currently living in the US as a resident alien. E writes speculative fiction, poetry and related nonfiction, and eir work has been published in venues like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Uncanny. You can find eir website at and eir book reviews at Bogi is @bogiperson on Twitter.




A quarterly collection of awesome, selected and edited by The Book Smugglers

Collecting original short fiction, essays, reviews, and reprints from diverse and powerful voices in speculative fiction, THE BOOK SMUGGLERS’ QUARTERLY ALMANAC is essential for any SFF fan.


    A.E. ASH
    (With a brand new story called “Nice”, set in the world of the upcoming novella Temporary Duty Assignment)
    (An essay, about Slipfic)
    (A reprint of the author’s award-nominated short story “The Mussel Eater”)
    (An essay, on body horror and coming out as trans)
    (An essay, on diversity and language)
    (A new short story called “Nini” about an AI, a space station and an old goddess. The cover art is based on “Nini”)
    (An essay, on superhero registration tropes, power fantasies and Western-centrism)
    (A new short story, “El Periodista y la Guerrera”, a story featuring LGBTQIA superheroes fighting for justice for marginalized groups)
    (An essay, on romance, women who lust and The Courtship of Princess Leia)
    (A review of Bitch Planet volume 2)
    (An essay, Where to Start With the Star Wars Expanded Universe)

How To Procure Your Copy of The Almanac

The Almanac is available now with major retailers – Get your copy by using the links below.

Buy the Book:

Weightless Books ¦Smashwords ¦ Amazon US ¦ Amazon UK

The post The Mutant’s Apprentice appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

Posted by The Book Smugglers

Title: Buried Heart

Author: Kate Elliott

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: July 25 2017
Ebook: 448 Pages

Buried Heart

The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series

In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war? Find all the answers in this beautifully written and exciting conclusion to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s debut New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy

Stand alone or series : Book 3 in the Court of Fives series

How did we get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): ebook


Ana’s Take:

Efea will rise!

With that promise looming over the first two books in the series, we get to the end of this amazing trilogy to see exactly how it will come to fruition. And it’s a beautiful, complex, conclusion to a series that followed a character – Jessamy – as she transforms herself from a privileged clueless girl to a strong, aware leader and champion of the people; and a kingdom – Efea – as it transforms itself through a revolution.

Jessamy is the perfect vehicle to tell this particular story. A mixed race child, town between two selves, the child of a Commoner woman and a Patron man, the embodiment of the tension that exists in her kingdom. In Buried Heart, Jessamy still experiences most of the conflict within herself, pulled apart by her love for her Patron father and her Patron lovers Kalliarkos, just as she is dedicated to the cause of her Commoner side. This is probably one of my favourite things about the series as whole: that it is never easy for Jessamy to choose, that she goes back and forth in her alliances but eventually never wavering from knowing right from wrong – even if she makes terrible choices because hell, no one is perfect. And the right thing here is obviously freedom from an oppressive conqueror that has buried the heart of a kingdom.

The series has gotten more and more complex with each subsequent book and it’s no surprise – Kate Elliott is known for writing utterly dynamic stories that looks at different sides and go deep. Here, the author looks at the terrible consequences of colonialism, at how revolutions can start from the inside without ever comprising on character development. As such we see a lot of Jessamy’s family – especially her beautiful relationship with her sisters and her mother – as well as her love story with Kalliarkos. With regards to her relationship with her family, I just loved seeing where the series took her mother, who became an even stronger character in this last book, taking an unexpected yet awesome role within the revolution and whose ultimate confrontation with her Patron husband broke my heart in an extremely satisfying way. Equally satisfying was the romantic conclusion to the series and to Jessamy’s love story with Kalliarkos.

Leaving any spoilers out, I am very happy with how the series and these characters evolved. One of the best YA trilogies I have ever read.

Thea’s Take:

Over the years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reading several Kate Elliott novels. With the Court of Fives novels, Elliott jumps fully into the YA SFF arena, following a remarkable young heroine who straddles two worlds. Court of Fives, the first novel in this particular world, is deceptively straightforward, even simple, compared to the later books. In this first novel, Jessamy understands that her household, her father–a great war hero and general of humble origin, but Saorese blood–and his love for his Efean wife, and his half-Saorese and half-Efean children, is unusual. But unusual or not, Jessamy clings to the life she knows and understands–her father’s low birth means that he’s of little interest to the Saorese nobility, and that has protected their unconventional way of life for all of Jessamy’s years. All of that changes when her father’s military victories attract the attention of political schemers in power–and suddenly, Jessamy finds her careful, protected world upended. Up until this point, very much in the spirit of single-minded YA heroines, Jessamy really doesn’t think about any of the implications of her family situation, her mother’s position, or the precarious space she and her sisters occupy in the world. For Jessamy, life is about the Fives–she yearns to run the Fives as a professional, and secretly trains and enters competitions to make her name as an adversary. The complicated web that results from her skill on the Fives Court, and the political ensnarements of her father’s position, set the stage for the next two books in the series… which become much, much more complicated.

In”>Poisoned Blade, Jessamy’s worldview grows, as does her understanding of the political intricacies that govern her survival, and the survival of her family. Having saved her mother and sisters from being buried alive in a cold, dark tomb–stealing them away to safety without tipping her hand to her Fives master, who also happens to be the man who entombed her family–Jessamy’s priorities change. No longer is she solely focused on running the Fives and whether or not her victory over a boy she likes will ruin things for her. Now, her worries are for her mother and sisters, as well as for her father, and for Prince Kal, who sits ensnared in the same web of political frustration. Her understanding of her world has grown–for the first time, she really looks at the divide between her family and of her country.

In this third book, Buried Heart, all of this tension and understanding grows a hundredfold. Jessamy’s worldview shifts yet again, now encompassing the whole of Efea, her people, and the Saorese who preside over them as their rulers. Buried Heart is a story of revolution and change; this is the novel that makes Jessamy realize that the struggle is bigger than herself and her loved ones. This jump in growth and understanding, the nuance and complexity that Elliott manages to imbue in her heroine, is utterly fantastic and what I love the most about this third and final book. There are many, many YA SFF novels out there about a young protagonist tearing down the establishment–there are fewer that convincingly pull of the increase in thematic scope and internal character arc the way that the Court of Fives series does. In Buried Heart, this understanding of scale is beautifully captured and expressed through Jessamy’s narrative–and I gotta say, I loved it just as much, more even, than those of Katniss or Tris and their ilk.

So–worldbuilding and sense of scale aside, the other thing that I loved very much about this series and this book in particular is the distribution of character importance. I love that each of Jessamy’s sisters gets some time in the spotlight here–and that Jessamy isn’t the uniquely smart or special one of her sisters. Her skills on the Fives court and her heart are formidable, but her sisters are equally empowered and brilliant (in fact, they’re arguably more brilliant), and each play an important role in the story across the series. (In this last book, it’s Jessamy’s scholarly sister, Maraya, who takes center stage.)

Of course, this is Jessamy’s story, and the characters she most closely interacts with–her father, her mother, Kaliarkos, the poet Ro-emnu, and the devious Lord Gargaron. Buried Heart is a political revolution story, but it’s also a book of relationships–I was most fascinated with Jessamy’s relationship with her father and Kal and her Saorese blood loyalty, versus her relationship with her mother, Ro-emnu, and her bond to Efea and what is best for her people. It’s a struggle that defines Jessamy’s narrative in this last book, and defines not only the future of Jess’s relationships, but the future of her country. The family dynamic, with her mother and father’s relationship so broken but yet still so full of emotion and love, is probably the most powerful emotional touchpoint in the entire novel. (Conversely, I found the romantic relationship between Kal and Jess to be the least interesting part of this book and series overall and I honestly didn’t care much for the love triangle implied between Kal, Jess, and Ro… but YMMV.)

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to unpack in Buried Heart, and my early criticism for Court of Fives (“everything is just so simplistic”) has been completely overwritten by the awesome nuance of the series overall.

I loved this book. I loved this series. If you want some engaging, highly complex, character-driven YA fantasy, Buried Heart is for you.


Ana: 9 – Damn Near Perfect

Thea: 8 – Excellent

Buy the Book:

(click on the link to purchase)

The post Joint Review: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

The "Wildcat Peak Trail is closed" signs disappeared a while ago so this morning I went up to see if the trail had really been fixed or just bashed down by foot traffic. But first I was surprised on Upper Packrat Trail by a bicycle coming up behind me. The guy claimed to have come from a trail "up there" and to have seen no signs; I know of no trail "up there" and the ranger I reported it to much later didn't seem to believe the claim, either. I wish I could say I made him turn back, but I think he would have pushed me off the trail had I refused to step aside. So that was a nice start.

Wildcat Peak Trail has indeed been fixed, wider and flatter than before. I guess it was done by a couple of guys with shovels as I cannot imagine how to get any other equipment to the site short of a helicopter. Maybe that's what they did. Anyway, once up that far (the slide site is a lot closer to the top than I recalled, but then I was too freaked to remember clearly) I of course did not turn around (my plan were it not sufficiently fixed) and after briefly contemplating going down Conlon I settled for the connector down to Laurel Canyon Trail and out.

There have been first of season reports for a number of winter species, but I neither heard nor saw any. Wildcat Peak Trail has no hard bits but it's boring and today was no exception. Just the usuals: )

So not an exciting morning, and it produced some un-encouraging empirical data. Stupid back. )

I forgot to say that the weather was perfect, clearing quickly but cool. I went out in two t-shirts and a light flannel, with my neckwarmer to start, and was quite comfortable.
([syndicated profile] book_smugglers_feed Sep. 17th, 2017 04:59 pm)

Posted by Thea

Hi everyone and HAPPY SUNDAY! We are in the throes of Kickstarter-ing, so let’s just dive right in, shall we?

Kickstarter Week 3

Dear readers, as you may know, we are running our very first Kickstarter! The campaign started on September 5 and will run through October 5–which means we are just reaching our halfway mark this week. Our goal is to raise $16,500 so that we can pay our authors, contributors, and artists more money and fund a new season of short stories–and right now, we’re sitting at 40% funded. We’ve got a bunch of goodies up for grabs–including limited edition art prints, autographed books, digital bundles and anthologies, as well as critiques and experiential rewards (with much more to come this week)!


If you like The Book Smugglers and what we do, we hope you’ll take the time to check out our Kickstarter and help in any way that you can. We truly appreciate and value any help you can give–every little bit helps, especially if it’s spreading the word that we’re fundraising. We hope you’ll support us so we can keep making The Book Smugglers a bigger and better place for SFF fandom!

This Week on The Book Smugglers

On Monday we kick off the week with our review of Buried Heart by Kate Elliott…


Tuesday, we have Bogi Takács with an essay, on superhero registration tropes, power fantasies and Western-centrism, taken from our Quarterly Almanac.


On Wednesday, we are thrilled to embark on our reread of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series in preparation for the release of The Book of Dust in the fall.

The Golden Compass

Thursday, Ana reviews A Skinfull of Shadows by Frances Hardinge.


And on Friday, Thea is over at Kirkus with some musings on the newest Star Wars novels (Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson and Leia by Claudia Gray).


It’s another busy week! Until tomorrow we remain…

Hunting Monsters Print

Framed Hunting Monsters limited art print

~Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers

The post Smugglers’ Stash & News appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

I got out about sunrise, went to three places, and was home about 11:30, so have three short lists. Point Emery: )

I didn't stay long before heading up the frontage road to what used to be called Berkeley Meadow. I walked east up the Virginia street extension, through the park, out the west gate, and along the fence back to the car. McLaughlin Eastshore State Park: )

There were great reports from Richmond Shoreline yesterday monrning but today it was the least productive. Meeker Slough: )

A day of mysteries.

My timing was terrible in that I was at Richmond Shoreline right around high tide and didn't want to hang around for an hour or more while the tide receded. There was also intense clean-up activity, which is wonderful if only briefly noticeable, given the unimaginable amount of crap that washes continually onto those shores and marshes, so too many people, however good their reason for being there.
([syndicated profile] book_smugglers_feed Sep. 16th, 2017 01:21 pm)

Posted by The Book Smugglers

On The Smugglers’ Radar” is a feature for books that have caught our eye: books we have heard of via other bloggers, directly from publishers, and/or from our regular incursions into the Amazon jungle. Thus, the Smugglers’ Radar was born. Because we want far more books than we can possibly buy or review (what else is new?), we thought we would make the Smugglers’ Radar into a weekly feature – so YOU can tell us which books you have on your radar as well!

On Ana’s Radar:

A new LGBT Fantasy YA by Audrey Coulthurst:


A romantic and thrilling YA fantasy from Audrey Coulthurst, the author of Of Fire and Stars, about a demigoddess with the power to change the future—but when her powers go dangerously wrong, she must do whatever she can to protect her world …and stop the girl she loves from destroying it. Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and Rae Carson.

Asra is a demigoddess with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing in her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself. Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.


Mary Robinette Kowal has two novels coming out – prequels to her Hugo Award-winning novelette “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” – and they look AMAZEBALLS:


A meteor decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for a much larger share of humanity to take part.

One of these new entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too—aside from some pesky barriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations about the proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may not stand a chance.



Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars.

Of course the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but could the International Aerospace Coalition ever stand the thought of putting a woman on such a potentially dangerous mission? Could Elma knowingly take the place of other astronauts who have been overlooked because of their race? And could she really leave behind her husband and the chance to start a family? This gripping look at the real conflicts behind a fantastical space race will put a new spin on our visions of what might have been.


This new book from Rachel Hartman sounds good too:


Meet Tess, a brave new heroine from beloved epic fantasy author Rachel Hartman.

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Returning to the fascinating world she created in the award-winning and New York Times bestselling Seraphina, Rachel Hartman introduces readers to a new character and a new quest, pushing the boundaries of genre once again in this wholly original fantasy.


oooooh, another space book, this one a new YA series from Rachel Caine:


Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.

Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.

Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.


On Thea’s Radar:

First up on my radar, a debut novel that sounds chilling:

I Stop Somewhere

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

TE Carter’s stirring and visceral debut not only discusses and dismantles rape culture, but it also reminds us what it is to be human.


Next up on the list, a horror novel from the UK:


THE FEED by Nick Clark Windo is a startling and timely debut which presents a world as unique and vividly imagined as STATION ELEVEN and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS and explores what it is to be human in the digital age.

What will you become when The Feed goes down?

The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it.

Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it. And this will serve them well when The Feed collapses.

Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing.

Because how do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?


And then there’s this sequel! I loved The Bear and the Nightingale so am looking forward to this continuation:

Girl in the Tower

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Praise for The Bear and the Nightingale

“A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up.”—Naomi Novik

“An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them.”—Robin Hobb


There’s this sci-fi novel that just came out…


The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.


Last but not least, this book–from a First Nations author–sounds like something I want to read right now.


When Cole Harper is compelled to return to Wounded Sky First Nation, he finds his community in chaos: a series of shocking murders, a mysterious illness ravaging the residents, and reemerging questions about Cole’s role in the tragedy that drove him away 10 years ago. With the aid of an unhelpful spirit, a disfigured ghost, and his two oldest friends, Cole tries to figure out his purpose, and unravel the mysteries he left behind a decade ago. Will he find the answers in time to save his community?

Strangers is the first novel in The Reckoner series by David Alexander Robertson, award–winning writer, and author of HighWater Press’ acclaimed children’s book When We Were Alone.


And that’s it from us! What books do you have on YOUR radar?

The post On the Smugglers’ Radar appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

alexia_drake: Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow in his green suit (Badass)
([personal profile] alexia_drake posting in [community profile] fandom_icons Sep. 16th, 2017 01:14 am)
8 Oliver & Felicity, 8 Oliver Queen, 12 Felicity
2 Carrie Cutter-Cupid, 2 Cupid & Deadshot
4 Floyd Lawton-Deadshot, 1 John Diggle, 3 The Flash
1 Thea & Oliver, 4 Thea-Speedy, 5 Laurel Lance

9 Kara-Supergirl, 1 Mon-El-Mike

4 Lucifer & Chloe, 12 Lucifer Morningstar
4 Chloe Decker, 1 Trixie

- See the rest here -