Now this is my wheelhouse, folks. Dark and twisted, verging on the edge of being considered horror fantasy; full of magic, monsters, and mayhem. Yep, Shadowed Souls has it all. It’s made up of not just one tale, but eleven, all of which are loosely connected through the title of the book. If spooky and abnormal is up your alley, then your alley must look a lot like mine. Edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes, this anthology covers a wide range of fantasy sub-genres, including some I didn’t even realize existed!
I won’t go through every one of the shorts, but there are a few that stand out to me, such as the first story from Butcher himself, Cold Case. While it is part of the Dresden Files, it focuses on Molly Carpenter and her new position as one of the Queens of Winter. Only a week into her gig as the new Winter Lady, she finds herself in scenario that isn’t as cut and dry as what she might like. There are lessons here, but none she will enjoy. She seemed to forget that she was on a mission for Winter; one that was meant to harden her, I presume.
In his first published work since finishing his Thomas Covenant series, Stephen R. Donaldson delivers two all original novellas in The King’s Justice. I’ve long been a fan of this author, stemming all the way back to the late 1970s when I began voraciously reading his The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever. It was well beyond my 8-year-old reading level, but it forced me to try harder and it certainly increased my vocabulary. I loved both of those trilogies and was ecstatic when he decided to revisit the character in 2004; those final books are amazing and well worth the wait. But we are here to talk about two all new stories with which Donaldson has seen fit to grace us! So, good reader, let us get to it!
Jim Butcher‘s long-running supernatural hard-boiled detective series The Dresden Files has had fans clamoring for more, while his more traditional fantasy books of Codex Alera have been well-received over the past decade. Now the best-selling author is launching a new series called The Cinder Spires, which combines fantasy and steampunk for a high-flying adventure, starting with the first book, The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
In The Aeronaut’s Windlass, the world is engulfed in a dangerous mist that caused humanity to move up above the clouds to Spires, divided into multi-tiered Habbles, where noble houses vie for power and airships are the main mode of transportation, shipping, and military. When the children of noble houses come of age, they enlist for a year’s service in the Spirearch’s Guard. On Spire Albion, Gwendolyn Lancaster — who’s House is the most prestigious — is a new Guard trainee, joining cousin Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster, one of the warriorborn, humans who possess feline-like characteristics. At the Academy, the cousins meet Bridget Tagwynn, who’s of a lower, dying house (it’s just her and her father left in their line), and Bridget’s protector, Rowl, a cat who is the first of his kind to be accepted into the service.
His father is dead. His mother was shot. The scanner was taken.
Tate Archer is in big trouble. The H2 alien race that has mixed with humans for eons, leaving only the 50 First families (pure human) has it, and he knows it is all his fault. So much was left unsaid between him and his father – about emotions not shown, and technology and secrets not shared. His father must have thought they had more time. He now understands what he has been training for all his life – this confrontation.
Tate Archer has been in training his entire life. For what, he has no idea. His secretive weapons inventor dad harps on “family responsibility” and “high stakes” but won’t clue Tate in on just what that means. All Tate needs to do right now is to follow his punishing exercise regimen, eat according to his carefully prescribed nutrition plan (protein gel, anyone?), and sharpen his ever curious mind (learned chemistry in kindergarten).
The bright spots in his life are his girlfriend Christina, and sneaking into his dad’s high security lab whenever possible, with his makeshift replicant fingerprints. He “borrows” what looks like a scanner, triggering a shoot-out, which results in his father’s death. Now Tate is right in the middle of a centuries old secret alien war on Earth, and everyone wants that scanner. Tate and Christina are on the run, joined by Tate’s formerly-out-of-the-picture mom, and don’t know who to trust. All Tate knows is that the scanner is more than it seems, and he has to keep it out of everyone’s hands.