I have never had a desire to delve into the plethora of books related to existing TV/movie sci-fi franchises, like Star Trek or Star Wars, but Firefly's cancellation remains such a sore spot for me that I couldn't resist a chance to experience more of the characters I fell in love with and didn't get enough of. Big Damn Hero is the first novel set in the world of the short-lived TV series created by Joss Whedon and it reads like it could easily have been an episode of the series. Set in a time before the movie Serenity, as evidenced by all of the characters being present, Big Damn Hero offers up a chance for you to return to the Verse and spend more time with Mal and the crew as they try to make a living under the watchful eye of the Alliance.
The four storylines in Maresca's Maradaine series come together with plenty of mayhem in City of the People. The main characters from the four series are thrown together as they battle necromancy, cultists, magical constructs, complicated contraptions, and a dragon in their efforts to save the missing children. Can vigilante college students, honest constables, criminal masterminds, and brave knights survive the betrayals and plotting of the Brotherhood of the Nine?
Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher, but times are tough in Chicago and he is struggling to make ends meet. His job is bound by strict rules, after all murdering people in order to save their lives is a complicated business, but when the bills start to stack up some of those "grey area" gigs become more attractive. As we experienced in the first novella, The Dispatcher, for an unknown reason it has become almost impossible to murder anyone as 99.9% of the time when someone is murdered their body disappears and they find themselves back at home alive and well with full knowledge of their death. Society has had 12 years to come to grips with this new reality and people are starting to get creative in how they take advantage of this phenomenon. This makes life complicated for Tony and his potential side gigs because he really could use the money.
The previous book was a total cliffhanger so it is up to this series finale to wrap up all the open storylines. The war in Europe went FUBAR when the dirty bombs did not wipe out the Variants as intended so Team Ghost is now up against a whole new level of enemy. The radiation from the bombs has caused the monsters to accelerate their rate of mutation and it has resulted in the evolution of a Queen mutant capable of controlling the others. Back in the US there is a full blown civil war underway and President Ringgold is on the run since many believe she ordered attacks on the very safe zones that she created. Horne is doing his best to keep Dr. Novato alive while Beckham is lost and presumed dead. Is it finally time for the human race to go extinct or will the remaining humans give all they have to prevail?
Peace time means innovation is taking hold in the Union and a brighter future lies just around the corner for all the main characters. Lol, not exactly, afterall this is a Joe Abercrombie book. The trouble with peace is that it is provides a fertile ground for unrest to take hold in and after the events of the first book all of the main characters are quite dissatisfied with the status quo. King Orso is new to his role as head of the Union, which means the members of his open council are actively jockeying for personal power instead of supporting him, and he is still brooding over his unexpected break-up with Savine, who is struggling with her investments. To nobody's surprise Savine's one night stand with the Union's newest hero, Leo dan Brock, doesn't make her any happier. In fact it sets in motion unintended consequences that make the political situation within the Union a powder keg ready to explode. Things aren't much better up north where Stour Nightfall has new ambitions for revenge after losing his duel to Leo, and the Dogman's daughter, Rikke, is barely staying sane as her ability to see the future has taken over her life and is preventing her from dealing with the present. This means that all of these main characters have political and personal motivations to see the others come to misery, so come along for the ride and find out how it all happens.
The comparison to Hogwarts is inevitable but The Scholomance is on an entirely different level that is darker and more complex. Sorcerers built The Scholomance to protect their children from the malefactions that are always hungry for the magic that sorcerers contain. The idea was to build it in a void pocket with a single portal that would only open once a year for graduates to exit and freshmen to enter. Its creator knew that malefactions would still find their way in, but powerful wards were built into the structure to make it difficult for them to get past the portal hall. Then just before the seniors exit the portal hall it is swept with mortal fire to kill the mals and give the students a clear path to the portal. It works, except for the mortal fire part, and at most sixty percent of the kids manage to survive "graduation". To increase their chances of survival the kids form alliances and work together, but El is the least popular kid in her year. For three years she has been looking for a chance to impress the better connected students but time is running out. Everything begins to change when her year's golden boy and self-appointed hero, Orion, busts into her room to save her from a mal.
The fight for Earth has been lost. With the failure of Operation Redemption in the last book the human race now finds itself on the brink of extinction. The few humans still alive on Earth can barely recognize their own planet. All the freshwater gone and the oceans down to 21% of their former volume, and still the aliens continue to drain away the remaining water. Earth is now a barren planet and this is the world that the former crew of the grounded submarine, Ghost of Atlantis, is trying to survive in. Of course, things are not much better for their former commander, Captain Noble, who finds himself caged in some kind of alien zoo spaceship and headed to an unknown destination. Perhaps humanity's best hope of survival is Dr Winston's team who are on their way to Mars aboard the NTC Sunspot in a desperate attempt to find a new home - too bad for them the aliens are already there too.
Let's quickly recap the setup done in the first book: The kingdom of Mordant on the verge of crumbling and Castle Orison is surrounded by the Alend army. Of course the massive hole in the wall doesn't really help matters much, especially since it is a self inflicted wound created after the Congery's ill advised attempt to summon a champion to help them defend Mordant. Said champion was translated from a futuristic world and upon arrival he promptly used his laser rifle to blast his way out through the castle wall and take off leaving behind a gap that can't be quickly repaired. At that point Mordant's King found that he was left with few supporters as almost everyone has chosen to ally themselves elsewhere, even his own daughters. That's no surprise as the Cadwal army is also marching towards Orison and it will likely arrive while the existing siege is going on so there is no reason to hope for a good outcome. Yet despite all of that setup from the first book this one still manages to get off to a slow start by finding a way to do even more. Sigh.
Mordant is a kingdom where mirrors function as magical devices capable of viewing other worlds and the Imagers that craft them have the power to translate both the objects and people they see in those mirrors into their own world. Imagers spend years expertly crafting their mirrors to achieve many powerful abilities, both good and evil, but one thing they always avoid making is a flat mirror. That is because anyone who sees their own reflection in a flat mirror, or attempts a translation in one, loses their mind. Imagers are also capable of performing auguries by shattering a mirror into pieces. The resulting shards of the mirror reveal glimpses of the future, although the resulting images are often subject to multiple interpretations. The Congery of Mordant has performed just such an augury and from the resulting images the Masters have concluded that a champion must be translated to save their kingdom from destruction. They have also seen that Apt Geraden, an expendable apprentice of little promise, should be the one to perform that translation. When Geraden enters the mirror to perform the translation he returns not with the expected champion but rather with Terisa Morgan, who he plucked right out of her Manhattan apartment building.
Catherine Asaro's most recent series set in her Skolian Empire continues with Major Bhaajan investigating the sudden disappearance of a wealthy woman from her own party. The house EI, (Evolving Intelligence), has no record of the exact minute she vanished and the destruction of the room almost looks like there was an explosion but there is no body or evidence that she left the house. Bhaajan has little to go on until another woman vanishes. Again the EI has no record and a woman in the next room heard nothing. This time the crime is personal for Lavinda Majda, the one royal that Bhaaj not only respects but actually likes. Thanks to her relationship with the crimelord Jak in the Undercity, Bhaaj slowly begins to unravel a conspiracy hidden among the Empire's elite. They are attempting to use ancient technology leftover from those who originally brought humans to Raylicon six thousand years earlier.