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Book Review: Nebula Awards Showcase 2014

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014This collection of Nebula Award winners has been published annually since 1966, and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America chose these stories and the editor of the anthology. You’ll find that this collection contains contributions from some of the best of the best, and it includes poems, novels, novellas, short stories, and much more.

Most of the content in this year’s anthology leaned toward science fiction, and much of that felt very old school in subject matter, but not in a bad way—lots of alien worlds and alien abductions. I would sum up this year’s collection as being esoteric excellence. Reading this book was very similar to watching the Academy Awards. In fact, many of the stories were the written equivalent of some of the movies that win Academy Awards. The book starts talking about the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, then transitions into the history of the Nebula Awards and finishes with the 2014 balloting. Then the book is broken down into the winners of each category, including some of the finalists for a few of the categories. Then, after all of these stories, this book explains the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award and the Rhysling Awards. Each of these explanations is followed by material about or from the winners, or both, in the case of Gene Wolfe, the winner of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

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Review: Skinwalkers (A Pathfinder Tale)

SkinwalkersJenderda has gone home to escape her pirate past. It happens that Jenderda lives in a stark rough island chain known as the Ironbound Archipelago, which is dominated by Nordic culture, longships and all. Jenderda wants to settle down and raise her son away from the swashbuckling life she led. She returned to find her childhood home ransacked, her father brutally murdered, and her sister missing a presumed dead, thanks to raiders. Many years later she has put her past behind her and has become a respected trader. All this comes crashing down around her as the islands are once again threatened by a strange clan of shapeshifters known as Skinwalkers, who start pillaging nearby islands. The raids and their grizzly results follow the same pattern of the raid that killed Jenderda’s father. Now Jenderda must take up her father’s axe and defend her fellow islanders and, most importantly, her son.

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Book Review—The Redemption Engine (Pathfinder Tales)

The Redemption EngineSalim Ghadafar is an atheist who happens to be the catspaw of the goddess of death. Yes, you read that correctly—he serves a goddess he doesn’t believe in. When the worst of the worst show up dead, yet their souls are unaccounted for, Salim is dispatched to find those souls. His first stop is the anarchic city of Kaer Maga. While there, he finds clues that lead him to Heaven and Hell. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters that would have P.T. Barnum salivating. Salim must find the lost souls, no matter how despicable they may have been in real life, and he must do so while trying to figure out whom he can trust and how he can avoid becoming more indebted to a goddess he doesn’t believe in.

The Pathfinder Tales once again prove that just because a book is based in an RPG setting, it doesn’t mean that said book can’t be deep and thought-provoking. This is a bit of a weighty tome; the paperback version I read came in at 509 pages of story with additional pages containing the always appreciated glossary beyond the story. This novel is as weighty in concept as it is in length. Sutter combined steady action with addressing some of the most esoteric concepts that can be tackled in fantasy writing. Combined with the subject matter are some interesting characters that continue to develop along with the story.

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Book Review: The Herald—The Sundering, Book VI

The HeraldIn The Herald, the final book of the Sundering series, which heralds the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, we see the popular world of Faerûn being torn apart by the ambitions not only of Shar, the evil goddess of darkness and mystery, but also by ambitious beings who would like nothing more than to ride the coattails of her power or to establish power bases of their own. One such group signing up for a ride on those dark coattails are the Shadovar. They are hatching nefarious plots across the world, including attacks on the magical wards of the famed repository of Candlekeep and the ancient elf city of Myth Drannor. They seek to consume all of the powerful magic contained at both of these locations so that they can sunder the world. In the center of the maelstrom of chaos, Mystra, the goddess of magic, has withdrawn from the world, leaving Elminster as her champion to maintain the Weave, which is what binds Mystra’s magic to Faerûn.

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Book Review: The Sentinel, The Sundering Book V

The SentinelThe Sentinel, Troy Denning
300 pages
Wizards of the Coast
ISBN-13: 978-0786964598

Kleef is a watchman in the City of Marsember. Though the watch is corrupt and ineffective, the “good” news for the people of Marsember is that they don’t have to worry about that much longer since the city is on the eve of being overrun by the Shadowvar. Kleef and his patrol are monitoring a strange man and his beguiling traveling companion when he discovers that a Shadowvar agent is tailing them. Kleef springs into action to intervene, and, in doing so, he ends up in a running battle with multiple Shadowvar who seem hell-bent on capturing and killing this odd couple. During this battle that rages through streets choked with refugees fleeing the city, Lady Arietta (who just happens to moonlight as a common bard in many of the taverns of the city) witnesses Kleef holding off his shady foes and decides to insert herself into the fight. By doing so, she not only places herself in danger, but her family as well. Kleef learns that not only is the sword that his father handed down to him more powerful than he thought, but that the odd couple that he saved are chosen of the goddess of love (Sune) and the god of death (sort of). If that wasn’t enough, the odd couple—Joelle and Malik—have an artifact that must be delivered to a place that to a common watchman like Kleef exists only in legend. Talk about a rough day at work.

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