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Weekly Book Buzz: Latest Nightside book by Simon R. Green

New Fantasy from Jo Walton

By Tim Janson     January 16, 2011


A Hard Day’s Knight By Simon R. Green
© Ace Books

 

Simon R. Green’s Nightside series has been one of my favorites since it debuted in 2003. This week I review the latest entry, “A Hard Day’s Knight” which is the penultimate entry in the series. Out this week is promising new fantasy from Jo Walton and Paula Brackston, as well as a great book about the Return of the Living Dead film series.
 
The Witch's Daughter Paula Brackston [Thomas Dunne Hardcover]
 
In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers and making her immortal. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he will be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
 
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. Her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl named Tegan starts hanging around. Against her instincts, Elizabeth teaches Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories—and demons—long thought forgotten. Part historical romance, part modern fantasy, The Witch’s Daughter is a fresh, compelling take on the magical, yet dangerous world of witches. Readers will long remember the fiercely independent heroine who survives plagues, wars, and the heartbreak of immortality to stay true to herself, and protect the protégé she comes to love.
 
Shadowfever Karen Marie Moning [Delacorte Hardcover]
 
MacKayla Lane was just a child when she and her sister, Alina, were given up for adoption and banished from Ireland forever. Twenty years later, Alina is dead and Mac has returned to the country that expelled them to hunt her sister’s murderer. But after discovering that she descends from a bloodline both gifted and cursed, Mac is plunged into a secret history: an ancient conflict between humans and immortals who have lived concealed among us for thousands of years.
 
What follows is a shocking chain of events with devastating consequences, and now Mac struggles to cope with grief while continuing her mission to acquire and control the Sinsar Dubh—a book of dark, forbidden magic scribed by the mythical Unseelie King, containing the power to create and destroy worlds. In an epic battle between humans and Fae, the hunter becomes the hunted when the Sinsar Dubh turns on Mac and begins mowing a deadly path through those she loves.
Who can she turn to? Who can she trust? Who is the woman haunting her dreams? More important, who is Mac herself and what is the destiny she glimpses in the black and crimson designs of an ancient tarot card?
 
From the luxury of the Lord Master’s penthouse to the sordid depths of an Unseelie nightclub, from the erotic bed of her lover to the terrifying bed of the Unseelie King, Mac’s journey will force her to face the truth of her exile, and to make a choice that will either save the world . . . or destroy it.
 
Never Knew Another J. M McDermott [Nigh Shade TPB]
 
Fugitive Rachel Nolander is a newcomer to the city of Dogsland, where the rich throw parties and the poor just do whatever they can to scrape by. Supported by her brother Djoss, she hides out in their squalid apartment, living in fear that someday, someone will find out that she is the child of a demon. Corporal Jona Lord Joni is a demon's child too, but instead of living in fear, he keeps his secret and goes about his life as a cocky, self-assured man of the law. The first book in the Dogsland Trilogy, Never Knew Another is the story of how these two outcasts meet.
 
Among Others Jo Walton [Tor Hardcover]
 
Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable,Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment. Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.
 
Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
 
The Crawlspace Darryl Dawson [Fear of Sleep Press]
 
An exciting new voice in horror is making himself known. Darryl Dawson, in his debut anthology, weaves seventeen original tales of terror that will pull the reader into a darkness never felt before. From the ghostly stalker in "Hamburger Lady" to the deadly music of "Got My Soul," each story weaves its way into its own nightmare, creating what one reviewer calls "a frightening, attention-grabbing read."* The Crawlspace is a winner of an Honorable Mention at the 2010 Hollywood Book Festival in the General Fiction category.
 
Allison Hewitt Is Trapped: A Zombie Novel Madeleine Roux [Tor]
 
When the zombie apocalypse breaks out, bookstore clerk Allison escapes the titular trap and finds a group of survivors at a community center, including handsome astronomy professor Collin. Complications--aside from the usual attacks by ravenous undead--include religious zealots, paramilitary survivalists, and Collin's estranged and intimidating wife.
 
The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead Christian Sellers [Plexus Publishing]
 
The Return of the Living Dead film series has become one of the most successful zombie movie franchises of all time, gaining cult status across the world and inspiring movies such as 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland. For the first time in 25 years, the cast and crew of all five films in this franchise reveal the stories behind the movies, offering their own opinions and details about life on the sets of some of the most fraught productions in cinema history. Supported by dozens of cast and crew members, The Complete History of the Return of the Living Dead features hundreds of previously unreleased behind-the-scenes photographs and exclusive artwork. This eye-catching, comprehensive book is the ultimate celebration of The Return of the Living Dead franchise and all those who contributed to its creation.
 
Reviews
 
A Hard Day’s Knight Simon R. Green (Ace Hardcover)
 
This is the 11th in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series and it picks up right where The Good, The Bad, and the Uncanny left off. John Taylor had killed Walker, and essentially becomes the new sheriff of the Nightside, a job he doesn’t want. But more importantly, he learned that the legendary sword Excalibur was in The Nightside and as he arrives home, he finds a package waiting for him…a sword-shaped package. It’s true, the package does contain Excalibur, an ultra-powerful weapon but who sent it to him an why?
 
A Hard Day’s Knight is unique among the other Nightside novels in that most of the action takes place outside of The Nightside. John first has to return to London Proper where he hasn’t been in years to consult the London Nights, the last living Knights of Camelot who are awaiting the return of the true King Arthur. There John meets the Lady of the Lake, The Earth Mother Gaea who grants him the ability to wield the sword until it can be returned to Arthur. 
 
But others want Excalibur as well…A Rogue London Knight named Stark seeks to turn it over to Merlin Satanspawn of Sinister Albion, the evil counterpart world to Camelot. In return Merlin will raise Stark’s wife from the dead. However Merlin will use the Sword to conquer not only The Nightside, but our world as well.
 
One can certainly look at this series and make the criticism that Green is going to the well once too often. It seems like every new entry brings a new foe that threatens the entire existence of The Nightside. You wonder how long Green can go on, trying to outdo himself. On the other hand, what makes the series go isn’t just the plot, but the unique, eccentric characters that make up his world. I never get tired of seeing Suzie Shooter, Razor Eddie, or Alex the bartender again. They’re like old friends.
 
Behind all of the events in A Hard Day’s Knight there are still issues left to resolve…There is the coming war against the elves which only Excalibur can stop. And there is the issue of whether John will become the new “Walker” of The Nightside. This is the one disappointing aspect of the book. John learns that he’s expected to take over the job but then this sub-plot is left hanging while he goes off to learn about Excalibur and try to Merlin Satanspawn. Grade B.

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