Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A pocketful of issues

Mostly thanks to Free Comic Book Day downloads on Comixology, but also thanks to a few other sources, I recently read a bunch of free-floating issue #1 comics. Also because I was jetlagged and Comixology suddenly seemed like a good idea. I might not want to give the evil empire money, but where's the harm if it's free downloads?

Anyway, so I'm posting short reviews of the issues I read. I'm also dividing them into three categories of interested-in-reading-on-ness.

Definitely going to buy the trade paperback


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Marvel)

This was an issue #1 that a friend bought as a floppy and let me read while we were hanging out. It is awesome. Squirrel Girl can talk to squirrels and has a tail and super strength (the proportional strength and speed of a squirrel)! In this new comic series she is off to college, disguising her tail by tucking it into her pants. Everything about this series looks awesome, including the voice and the art. I am very much hanging out to buy the trade volume when it comes out (though it looks like I'll be waiting till September).


Bitch Planet #1 by by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (Image)
 
This has been on my radar for a while but I wasn't sure whether it would quite be my thing. It definitely is. I don't think describing it as "Orange is the New Black in space" is inaccurate. There's a lot of very positive female representation, especially from a body-positivity sense, although the setting is aggressively misogynistic. I mean, women are sent to a prison planet (hence the title) for minor crimes such as not being perfect wives or daring to age. It was quite horrifying, actually, but I'm confident this is going to be a great series and I look forward to the trade coming out in July.


Considering Reading On


Wayward #1 by Jim Zub and Steve Cummings (Image)

An Irish-Japanese girl moves to Tokyo to live with her mother. While still very jetlagged, she wanders around the city, runs into a band of ruffians and also a swarm of cats. The ruffians turn out to be evil turtles and our heroine is rescued by a superhero girl and also discovers super powers of her own. It caught my fancy and I am definitely interested in reading more, just not quite as urgently as the two books mentioned above. Mind you, the first volume is already out, so I might pick it up impulsively if I see it reasonably-priced. Also cats. I want to know more about the cats.


Trees #1 by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard (Image)

Set a decade after aliens come to Earth and leave mysterious cylindrical towers all over the place ("trees"), this series looks like it will be looking at the ongoing consequences in a variety of places around the world. Just in issue #1 we see Rio de Janeiro, Manhattan, somewhere polar, and a weird Chinese artists' enclave. So it seems like it will be a fairly diverse story and, of course, the premise is pretty interesting and I'd like to see where they take it. I'm leaning towards wanting to read this one on more than an impulse buy level.



Batgirl #1 (New 52) by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes (DC)

Promising and whether I keep reading will come down to laziness (or lack thereof). I know they've just rebooted this character too with a new costume (better, though the old one's not that bad) so I'm a bit torn as to whether I'd want to keep reading this version or start with the new one. That said, they did a pretty good job of dealing with the fact that the character spent three years in a wheelchair. Insofar as you can ever magically cure a disabled character well, this could have gone a lot worse. She remembers and acknowledges her time in a wheelchair (and gets rightfully annoyed at her new house mate for suggesting that being in a wheelchair is the worst thing ever) and also suffers from PTSD from the incident which caused her injury, another nice touch. Having written all that, I am definitely interested in continuing this story.


Shutter #1 by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca (Image)

A woman whose father was some sort of possibly-supernatural/superpowered Indiana Jones type character (except an explorer) is lamenting her father's death a decade previously and gets attacked my supernatural monsters. Promising but no idea where it's going. I am intrigued and would be interested in finding out. If anyone has read more of this series, feel free to chime in. It's another one where the first trade is already out, so I might impulsively buy it if I see it, but I'm less certain than with the above two.



Not Interested in Continuing


Alex + Ada #1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn (Image) — Not the worst thing ever but not for me. Dude whose grandmother gives him a female robot for companionship. Eh.

Roche Limit #1 by Michael Moreci and Vic Malhotra (Image) — Too much man pain (even though turns out one of the main characters is female) and baffling physics. Might have potential, but I'm not going to bother to keep reading.

Planetary #1 by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (DC) — I feel less strongly against this one than the two above. I didn't actively dislike it, but I didn't feel it brought anything particularly new or exciting to the table, so I'm not interested in pursuing it.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Abducticon by Alma Alexander

Abducticon by Alma Alexander is a book that tickled my fancy when I first read the blurb. What's not to like about the idea of a science fiction convention that gets abducted by aliens?

It's the Friday before a science fiction convention weekend. Hundreds of fans are lined up at the registration desk. The posters for the Media Guests of Honor aren't done, there's a problem with the Program Booklet, the Author Guest of Honor has gone AWOL, and the coffee in the Green Room is DREADFUL. The convention chair's boyfriend has just smashed up his car.

And now the entire hotel has been kidnapped by time traveling
androids. At least something is going right.

Welcome to AbductiCon.

This book was pretty much what I expected it to be. It's a fun and very, very geeky story about some of the people who attended a small, local (US) spec fic convention, a few innocent by-standers and the handful of aliens that throw their weekend into disarray.

There are several point of view characters and the story is split between them, depending on who is in the right place at the right time. A few notable characters are the con chair, a few others of the con committee — including one that got left behind, much to his confusion — and a few guests. There are also the aliens, of course, but they are never point of view characters. Their role is mainly to instigate events and be mysterious. They do have an agenda, but it takes a back-seat to the humans simply trying to cope with the situation, until near the end.

I found the book a funny and entertaining read. I would say if the premise tickles your fancy, then definitely pick this book up. If you have little to no interest in SFF fandom or conventions, then this is probably not for you. I enjoyed it and I think it was a good book to read while travelling.

4 / 5 stars

First published: March 2015, Book View Cafe
Series: No.
Format read: eARC
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Captain Marvel, Vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More written by Kelly Sue Deconnick and illustrated by David Lopez

Captain Marvel, Vol 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More written by Kelly Sue Deconnick and illustrated by David Lopez is the first volume in the second story arc/sequence starring the new Captain Marvel (the first sequence thingy had two volumes and included her origin story and I haven't read it as of this writing). A friend recommended starting with this volume (and described it as "Captain Marvel in SPACE", which is accurate) but there were a few characters that were obviously in the earlier comics that I wasn't familiar with. Now I want to go back and read those two earlier volumes. (I should also admit that part of the reason I decided to start here is because the Volume 2 immediately following this one has a swarm of cats on the cover...) Goodreads leads me to believe that this is the first volume of the 8th... volume of Captain Marvel stories. The Carol Danvers version of Captain Marvel seems to have begun with the 2 or 3 volumes of the 7th... volume. (Wow, turns out you have to be quite awake to understand comic chronology.)

Hero! Pilot! Avenger! Captain Marvel, Earth's Mightiest Hero with an attitude to match, is back and launching headfirst into an all-new ongoing adventure! As Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Carol Danvers, comes to a crossroads with a new life and new romance, she makes a dramatic decision that will alter the course of her life - and the entire Marvel Universe - in the months to come. But as Carol takes on a mission to return an alien girl to her homeworld, she lands in the middle of an uprising against the Galactic Alliance! Investigating the forced resettlement of Rocket Girl's people, Carol discovers that she has a history with the man behind the plot. But when the bad guy tries to blackmail Carol and turn the Avengers against her, it's payback time! Guest-starring the Guardians of the Galaxy!

To summarise my review: Captain Marvel is awesome and she should have all the movies. ALL. THE. MOVIES.

This was my first exposure to Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers or otherwise) unless you count Tumblr fanart. Turns out, she's incredibly awesome. Basically, Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, is night impervious (bullets bounce off her, she doesn't need to breath in space — and can magically talk in space without a helmet...), can fly, and shoots energy/fireballs from her hands. AND she has a pet cat which she takes to space with her. WHAT is not to like? Seriously.

As I'm sure you can tell, I have a new favourite superhero. I'm not sure I had a strong favourite superhero before (but right now Ms Marvel is probably number 2), but I do now. I am lacking a bit of background on her, so I'm sure I missed some references at the start (and there were a couple of characters who I had zero context for) but the actual story made sense the whole time. Captain Marvel is sent to a "poison planet" whose inhabitants are all getting sick but don't want to evacuate. Along the way she runs into the Guardians of the Galaxy (exactly like the movie set of characters) and the annoying raccoon is mean to her cat. (I already didn't like the raccoon from the movie, so this is just another point against him.)

The main action in this volume's story arc is Captain Marvel saving the planet in a roundabout way — a lot is made of the fact that just because she's an Avenger doesn't mean that her mere presence is magical or wanted. Although she enjoys punching people in the face, the day-saving has to be a little more indirect than that. And the important thing is, the cat is unharmed. (The cat is, in fact, on the cover of Volume 2.)

I loved Captain Marvel and highly recommend her to anyone who likes superheroes, kickarse women, or cats. I'm not 100% sure that Higher, Further, Faster, More is the absolute best volume to start with, but it's not a bad place to come into Captain Marvel's story. I will definitely be reading more Captain Marvel.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Marvel
Series: Um. Captain Marvel (2014) #1-6, (Volume 1 of ongoing) and the third volume since Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel.
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: All-Star Comics, Melbourne

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Defying Doomsday Round-up

April is drawing to a close and so is our Pozible campaign. It's your last chance to pre-order Defying Doomsday — especially if you want a limited edition hard cover — and after 7 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time it will officially be too late. We have made our goal but we are still collecting funds towards our audiobook stretch goal. Fingers crossed there.

Meanwhile, Holly and I wrote a lot of blog posts that went live during the campaign. In case you missed a few, here is a list:
On the actual Defying Doomsday blog, we also teased and announced some of the authors we already have lined up. Here is a little bit about each of them:
If you want to be one of our authors, we are going to be open to submissions in May and June and you can see our submission guidelines here.

We were also very excited to announce that Robert Hoge will be writing our introduction!

Finally, a couple of other people wrote nice things about Defying Doomsday:

And if you want an ongoing supply of disability and/or chronic illness etc related content, you might consider following (or intermittently checking) our Tumblr.

The campaign link again, if you want to get a last minute pledge in, is: http://www.pozible.com/project/188146

Thank-you to everyone who's already backed and everyone that helped us spread the word! You are all awesome!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead is the sixth and final book in the Bloodlines series. As would be expected in such a concluding volume, all the loose threads from earlier books are tied up, the day is saved and everyone gets to live happily ever after. That isn't a spoiler. This review is going to contain spoilers fro the previous books, however. Especially a pretty major spoiler for Silver Shadows, the fifth book in the Bloodlines series.

Their forbidden romance exposed, Sydney and Adrian find themselves facing the wrath of both the Alchemists and the Moroi in this electrifying conclusion to Richelle Mead’s bestselling Bloodlines series.

When the life of someone they both love is put on the line, Sydney risks everything to hunt down a deadly former nemesis. Meanwhile, she and Adrian becomes enmeshed in a puzzle that could hold the key to a shocking secret about spirit magic, a secret that could shake the entire Moroi world and alter their lives forever.

The Ruby Circle picks up right where the previous book left off and then throws us back into a recurring issue of the series: Jill has been kidnapped. Everyone except Sydney and Adrian get to help look for her, however, since they are still under the court's protection after the Alchemist-enraging wedding of the previous book. But then a lead presents itself that only Sydney can follow and the couple are thrown into the thick of the adventure.

As with the earlier books, this was a fun read. (Probably more fun than the previous book, actually, since there was significantly less torture.) On their way to saving Jill, Sydney and Adrian stumble across an unrelated issue (but one that does tie back to events in earlier books) which conveniently allows Mead to set up a hook for a possible third series. Less cynically, it was something that addressed some of the background spirit research that has been going on throughout the series. (I am being vague because spoilers.) And that said, I would read another series in this universe, especially if there was a more significant time jump to its beginning.

I had one objection to the writing in The Ruby Circle. There was one scene a third (ish) of the way through where a lot of crucial things happened but that was kind of a mess, flow-wise. I suspect the author had written herself into a corner with a bunch of things that had to happen for the plot to work. That said, while I thought it was messy, my husband didn't particularly notice, so your mileage may vary.

One thing I noticed — well, started to notice from Silver Shadows especially — is how this series, which started off very YA and set in a school, has ended very not YA with a wedding and spoiler-stuff. I'd say it's because the characters grew up, but not a huge amount of time passed between the first and last books. More relevantly, I think it's because the focus shifted from Jill, who is a teenager, to Sydney and Adrian who are 19 and 22, respectively. I'm not objecting to the shift, by the way, just noting it.

I have enjoyed the Bloodlines series and I would recommend it to fans of YA and to anyone who likes vampires. Fans of the earlier Vampire Academy series should also give it a shot. I hope it's obvious from the rest of my review, but I definitely don't recommend reading The Ruby Circle without having read the other books in the series.

4 / 5 stars

First published: February 2015, Penguin
Series: Bloodlines, book 6 of 6
Format read: Paper! Gasp!
Source: Pre-order from Dymocks

Monday, 27 April 2015

Defying Doomsday Pozible: four days to go!

Like it says in the title, there are only four days left to get the Defying Doomsday Pozible funded. The campaign finishes on Friday at 7 pm Australian East Coast time. If you haven't backed yet now is your last chance.




A bit more about Defying Doomsday, in case you've forgotten or missed my earlier posts.


Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse-survival fiction with a focus on disabled characters, which will be edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, and published by Twelfth Planet Press in mid 2016.
Apocalypse fiction rarely includes characters with disability, chronic illness and other impairments. When these characters do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters undeveloped into anything more than a burden to the protagonist. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology showing that disabled characters have far more interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.
The anthology will be varied, with characters experiencing all kinds of disability from physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiverse characters. There will also be a variety of stories, including those that are fun, sad, adventurous and horrific.
The stories in Defying Doomsday will look at periods of upheaval from new and interesting perspectives. The anthology will share narratives about characters with disability, characters with chronic illnesses and other impairments, surviving the apocalypse and contending with the collapse of life as they know it.


Defying Doomsday is currently crowdfunding via Pozible. To support the project visit: http://pozi.be/defyingdoomsday

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DefyingDoomsday
Website: http://defyingdoomsday.twelfthplanetpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DefyingDoomsday
Tumblr: http://DefyingDoomsday.tumblr.com

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass & Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by Roc Upchurch is a new-to-me comic I picked up on a whim a few weeks ago. It's a fantasy series rather than superhero or science fiction and it didn't grab me as much as other comics have.

Who are the Rat Queens?

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit.

It's also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!

The blurb describes the idea pretty well. I've also heard it described as "Dungeons and Dragons meets Sex and the City" which is not entirely inaccurate. The titular characters are a band of all-female mercenaries of various races (elf, dwarf, not sure) who periodically go off on quests and spend their down-time drinking heavily. There are also other bands of mercenaries, like a group who are all called Dave, but they're not the main characters and only appear occasionally.

The general plot idea over the course of this volume is that the Rat Queens (and other mercenary bands) get sent on quests, all of which go horribly wrong and smell of conspiracy. Most of the action centres around fighting, almost dying, getting drunk and high to celebrate not dying, and talking about having sex. The violence is drawn in a slightly splatterpunk way (well, OK, this isn't horror, but I wanted to use that word), with lots of literal blood splattering all over the place.

I wasn't particularly taken with the art style, partly on just a personal level and partly because it was a bit more boring than, say, the art in Ms Marvel which had a lot of little funny details in the background. (And to avoid confusion, the cover art above is by Fiona Staples, a different artist to the internal art.) I've heard that the artist changes somewhere in Volume 2 (I believe from issue #9 onwards) so I'm willing to give it another shot before deciding whether to stick with it. Hopefully I'll also become more invested in the story.

I didn't hate Rat Queens Volume 1, but it didn't grab me as much as I was hoping either. If you're a fan of D&D and sarcastic female characters who also kick literal butt, then I would definitely consider giving it a try.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Image Comics
Series: Rat Queens, on going series, Volume 1 including issues #1–5
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Purchased in a comic book store

Friday, 24 April 2015

Winning the King by Nicole Murphy

Winning the King by Nicole Murphy is the second book in the Jorda Trilogy, following on from Loving the Prince, which I reviewed last year. Although it follows on from the events of the first book, it features a different couple as the main characters and I think it could be read as a standalone. That said, I'm enjoying this series, so I would recommend going back to the start to get the full effect.

Blue eyes, golden curls, a body songs are composed about, and part of one of the most powerful families in the colonies, Diana Wiltmore is not used to ever hearing the word ‘no’. So when she sets her sights on a fling with the gorgeous, potent and single King of Angonia, Gareth, she is shocked when he turns her down flat. In an effort to put the rejection behind her, she agrees to her sister’s plan to gain some political leverage by cosying up to a rival planetary ruler.

Gareth has responsibilities and no time for a woman like Diana. She is all temptation and distraction, but Gareth wants more from a woman than decoration. But it is Diana standing by his side as his beloved home of Angonia is attacked and he starts to see that underneath the surface is a strong woman even more beautiful than her picture-perfect exterior.

Gareth’s people need him and to be there for them, he needs Diana. But has he ruined every chance he has of winning her heart?

I quite enjoyed Winning the King. Long-time readers of this blog will know I'm not a huge fan of Romance, but after Loving the Prince had a satisfactory amount of plot, I thought I'd see if Winning the King continued the trend. And it did. For a romance book it's actually not that heavy on the romance, although it is a primary plot-driver for the two main characters.

On the other hand, the external driver of the plot is quite an exciting with terrorists and explosions and other things which are spoilers. Gareth, as King of Angonia, obviously has to deal with the threat (and actuality) of danger to his people and Diana gets caught up in it partly because she witnesses some of it. In between the ups and downs of their romance there's another man — another leader — who wants Diana for himself, much to her disgust.

I quite liked both Diana and Gareth as characters and enjoyed reading their story. If you enjoyed Loving the Prince, then I definitely recommend Winning the King. While I enjoyed both, I found this book to be a bit stronger. If you haven't read the earlier book, it doesn't really matter which one you start with. If you like your science fiction romance with a goodly amount of sensible plot in it, then I highly recommend the Jorda Trilogy by Nicole Murphy.

4 / 5 stars


First published: January 2015, Escape Publishing
Series: The Jorda Trilogy book 2 of 3
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Ms Marvel Volume Two "Generation Why" by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Ms Marvel Volume Two "Generation Why" by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona is the second volume of collected issues in the ongoing comic book series. I have previously reviewed Volume One here.

Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! Kamala may be fan-girling out when her favorite (okay maybe Top Five) super hero shows up, but that won't stop her from protecting her hometown. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity for the first time - by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! Every girl wants a puppy, but this one may be too much of a handful, even for a super hero with embiggening powers. But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. The fan-favorite, critically acclaimed, amazing new series continues as Kamala Khan proves why she's the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

This volume focuses on Kamala learning about her powers and, more importantly, who she is as a superhero. The volume starts with Kamala investigating a suspicious sewer and meeting Wolverine, over whom she proceeds to fangirl. She also starts to realise that she might have taken on more than she can handle alone. Nevertheless, she refuses to back down from her impending confrontation with The Inventor.

We also learn about other character who are keeping an eye on Ms Marvel and some mysterious things going on in the background that Kamala doesn't know about (and that the audience doesn't learn much about, although it's possible there were references to other Marvel comic series that I missed). There was a particularly touching moment when Kamala's parents force her to go talk to the Sheikh because the are concerned about her. Kamala expects to get a tedious lecture, but instead gets some valuable advice. And of course, there's the main event that the subtitle is alluding to. Teenagers have been going missing since Volume One and Kamala had vowed to rescue them.

I am continuing to enjoy Ms Marvel and will definitely be picking up Volume Three when it comes out (in June, according to Goodreads). If you haven't read any Ms Marvel, I definitely recommend starting at the start with Volume One. This is a great comic book series that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to almost anyone.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: April 2015, Marvel
Series: Ms Marvel ongoing series, volume 2, including issues #6-11
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Purchased at a physical comic book store (in Perth)

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter can be taken as a collection of short stories or as a mosaic novel. I requested the fancy limited edition hard cover version of this book for Christmas before finding out that I was to be an Aurealis Awards judge for the category, which is why this review is going up a few months after I read the book. Of course, the views expressed in this review are my own and do not reflect the views of the judging panel. Indeed, this review is based on notes I made before consulting with the other judges.

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings returns to the world of Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus, 2010), introducing readers to the tales that came before. Stories where coffin-makers work hard to keep the dead beneath; where a plague maiden steals away the children of an ungrateful village; where poison girls are schooled in the art of assassination; where pirates disappear from the seas; where families and the ties that bind them can both ruin and resurrect and where books carry forth fairy tales, forbidden knowledge and dangerous secrets.

So what is a mosaic novel? In this case, it's a collection of short stories that are all set in the same world with a few overlapping characters. The book grew on me as I read on and actually the first story was my least favourite. That said, it connected really nicely with the last story and to me that really pulled the whole book together. The middle stories were all more obviously tied together. I suspect the first and last stories might have the strongest connection to Slatter's other collection/mosaic novel in the same universe, Sourdough and Other Stories. Either way, I went and bought the ebook of Sourdough pretty much as soon as I finished The Bitterwood Bible.

Slatter's writing is beautiful and her stories are poignant. This was my first exposure to her writing and it has not been the last (OK, that statement might have had more weight if I hadn't also read two other collections of hers for Aurealis judging... but I am going to read more of her work). As always, I've made notes on every story below. I find it really hard to pick a favourite. I loved most of them as I was reading them and there are many scenes that have really stuck with me.

I would highly recommend The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings to all fans of short stories and of fantasy. If you haven't read any of Slatter's work before, do yourself a favour and get on it.

~

The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter — A stranger story than I was expecting, with a few (intentionally) unpleasant elements. But not a bad one. Not sure I would have opened with it. Except that it makes sense to open with once you've read the whole collection.

The Maiden in the Ice — As longer story, spanning more time and events. Told mostly from the point of view of a girl who finds the maiden in the ice then later shows sympathy towards her when the town doesn't. I like it.

The Badger Bride — A really nice story about a girl who copies books (in the monkish sense), a strange commission and a badger who wanders in out of the cold. I enjoyed it.

The Burnt Moon — Another good story. I am enjoying the vengeance against rapists. In this one a town is plagued by rats as punishment for what happened to the mother of the previous story's protagonist.

By My Voice I Shall Be Known — A young woman slighted by her suitor who scorns her for someone else after she helped him become successful. Then he tries to have her killed, succeeding in only having her tongue cut out and setting her on a path to revenge. Also there are rusalky.

The Undone and the Divine — A daughter comes back to the town her mother played a downfall in (in "The Burnt Moon") and deals with the residue, but physical and spiritual. The father of the badger bride also makes an appearance. I'm really starting to appreciate how gorgeously linked these stories are.

The Night Stair — A girl becomes a substitute daughter for the vampire couple that rule the town. But she is cleverer than they expected as she seeks vengeance for her dead sisters.

Now, All Pirates are Gone — The other woman from "By My Voice I Shall Be Known" is abandoned by her husband and left to lure all the Pirates to their deaths. The main character survives, possibly thanks to an encounter with the earlier story's protagonist.

St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls — The sister of an earlier protagonist is sent to a deadly finishing school. Her goal not primarily to learn assassination but to secretly copy a book of poisons. Much is rent asunder in her wake.

The Bitterwood Bible — Both the genesis of the titular book and the tale of a girl sent to find magical answers who ends up finding a safe place in the world.

Terrible as an Army with Banners — and epistemological chronicle of the fall of the nunnery that was mentioned several times in several stories.

By the Weeping Gate — a family of prostitutes, the sister too plain to be one and the shady man who has appeared in earlier stories. This time, he is a viceroy and seems, at first, to be ok.

Spells for Coming Forth by Daylight — the final story which gives the very first story due context. Neo of the previous story has gone forth to confront the shady man and comes across other women (and indeed the man) who have played parts in earlier stories.

5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Tartarus Press
Series: Sort of a prequel to Sourdough and Other Stories but stands alone.
Format read: Fancy-pants hardcover
Source: Christmas present
Disclaimer: Tsana was a judge for the Aurealis Awards, on the panel which judged this book. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge