New Amsterdam, (New Amsterdam #1), Elizabeth Bear
He’s a wampyr, she’s a Lady, they fight crime!
Lady Abigail Irene Garret, Th.D, Detective Crown Investigator, forensic sorcerer, with a scandalous reputation, a once noted beauty, and connections in the highest places. Now one of only three DCIs in Britain’s New Netherlands colonies, and the only one who is actually competent.
Lucifugous, Over the Atlantic, March 1899
Don Sebastien de Ulloa, renowned Great Detective, less well known as a wampyr, is fleeing Europe and its memories in the company of his protégé Jack Priest by airship, when a passenger goes missing.
Wax, New Amsterdam, April 1901
A disturbed night and a body in the street leads to the discovery of an entire household vanished leads to a case for Detective Crown Investigator Lady Abigail Irene Garret, soon joined to her evident annoyance, by Don Sebastien de Ulloa. But with the case setting her between the Lord Mayor of New Amsterdam, and her lover, the Duke of New Amsterdam, Abby Irene is soon grateful for the help.
Wane, New Amsterdam, March 1902
Abby Irene receives an invitation from an old lover, Prince Henry, the heir to the throne. But there is murder at the ball, a royal reputation to protect, and once more Abby Irene finds herself caugtht between the Lord Mayor and the Duke.
Limerent, New Amsterdam, October 1902
A wealthy Fenian is found dead inside a locked room, a pistol in one hand, a Rosary bead clutched in the other. But if he knew he was in danger, how did they get to him? And then there is the bigger, political, question, is his business partner, pro-independence Lord Mayor Peter Elliot, involved? And will his political opponent, Abby Irene’s patron, boss, and lover, Richard, Duke of New Amsterdam, accept any answer bar guilty?
Chatoyant, Boston, December 1902
Someone is killing high class male courtesans, and if Sebastien can’t investigate, then Abby Irene, newly fled from New Amsterdam, can. And then a figure from Sebastian’s past arrives. And war breaks out.
Lumiere, Paris, December 1902, January 1903
Sebastien and his court have travelled to Paris, the city of Light, city of Tesla’s marvellous broadcast electricity, to seek French aid for the rebels in the American colonies. But aid comes at a price. Ghostly wolves are invading Paris during its harsh winter, and someone needs to hunt them down.
Overall it’s a rock-solid collection. The political aspect took me by surprise, but the forensic sorcery aspects were everything I had hoped for, with a well thought out magic system. And each story stands as a competent mystery in its own rights, while simultaneously contributing to the overall arc.
Garret Investigates, (New Amsterdam #5), Elizabeth Bear
Five more stories from Bear’s New Amsterdam sequence. I actually read this straight after New Amsterdam as I wanted more of Abby Irene
The Tricks of London: London, April 1879
Told from the PoV of a young detective sergeant, London faces the return of an old threat, and a young Lady Abigail Irene is the Detective Crown Investigator charged with hunting it down
The Body of the Nation: New Netherlands, April 1897
A locked room mystery, on a river steamer, with a dead Bavarian princess, and bonus Sam Clemens.
Almost True: New Netherlands, 1900
The first Abby Irene story written, this sees her caught up by an attempt to assassinate her lover, the Duke of New Amsterdam. She’s a rather more physical force in this than in the other stories.
Underground: Paris, April 1941
Despite the collection’s title, this one doesn’t actually involve Abby Irene, the focus here is her former housekeeper, Mary Ballard, now working for the Resistance against Paris’ Prussian occupiers, and charged with getting someone hunted by every side out of the city.
Twilight: London, 1941
The last Abby Irene story. She’s an old woman now, but preserved by her sorcery, and she and Sebastien have not sat out the Prussian occupation. But now the Prussians are fled, the King is back, and the intention seems to be to pension off not just her, but the entire Crown Investigator service. But not before one final case that draws in all Sebastien’s surviving court.
The collection is a little varied, but well worth reading if New Amsterdam left you wanting more of Abigail Irene.
The White City (New Amsterdam #3), Elizabeth Bear
In this double-stranded addition to Bear's New Amsterdam tales, the wampyr Don Sebastien de Ulloa takes his court to Moscow both before and after the events in New Amsterdam and Paris, and both visits are marked by murder. (If the order I'm reading these seems odd, I'm trying to read them in chronological order rather than publication order).
The stories are interwoven, and the second finds his court marked by grief, so this may not be the best place to start (try 'New Amsterdam' for that), but if you like the structure it's well worth the time. Unlike the other books I've read in the New Amsterdam sequence, this is a single short novel (182 pages), rather than a collection of short stories.
In the earlier thread, Sebastien's protege Jack continues his habit of running with the revolutionary crowd, seduced by the artist Irina, and introduced to someone who may have the potential to be this universe's Lenin (Ilya Ilych Ulyanov? - that patronymic and surname combination is too big a coincidence), only for Irina to find herself framed for murder, allowing Sebastien to roll out his Great Detective persona.
The later thread again revolves around Irina and her acquaintances, as Sebastien stumbles on a body in her studio, and into the orbit of the Russian investigator Dyachenko, which allows Lady Abigail Irene to dust off her forensic sorcery skills. There's an interesting contrast in this one as the Russians have done away with forensic sorcery, and invented conventional forensics, so Abigail Irene and Dyachenko get to play 'let me impress you', to the amusement of Sebastien.
And lurking in the background to both stories is the enigmatic wampyr Starkad.
I really liked this, and Bear's prose continues to be gorgeous, but the resolution jarred a little - it makes sense, but there's a sequence that goes 'Ah, it was about A. Oh, it was really about B. Ah, so it was actually about C' that left me a little whiplashed
Penric and the Shaman, Lois McMaster Bujold
Four years on from Penric and the Demon, Penric is a fully qualified sorcerer-divine of the Bastard's Order, once more living in Martenbridge in the court of the Princess-Archdivine and spending his time trying to spread the medical knowledge of Learned Ruchia, the previous host of his demon, Desdemona, through a rather clever spell.
And then, just as winter sets in, there arrives Oswyl, a Locator in the Father's Order, hot on the heels of Inglis, a Royal Shaman, who is suspected of murder. Oswyl is very, ahem, dedicated to his work and the rest of his team have headed off in the opposite direction, convinced they know better than he does which way Inglis will have gone. Penric isn't exactly enthused by the prospect of a trip into the high mountains in winter, but being a sorceror-divine of the Bastard, the god of everything else, means his job is whatever comes his way.
Meanwhile, up in the mountains, Inglis has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle.
Oswyl, and most everyone else, start off dismissing Penric because of his youth (he's 23 in this story), but Penric has matured into his role, and he's actually far more at home in the outdoors than any of the other protagonists. It's also not the first time he's gotten caught up in the affairs of gods, and their habit of tugging the strings of their pieces on the board is one he's a lot better placed to recognise than most.
If you like the world of the Five Gods, this is another solid entry. It's written as rotating third person limited point of view, but once or twice I found myself having to page back to check whose PoV we were in. It's mostly not a problem, and the story works better for it (and maybe I was just tired), but worth your while to pay attention to PoV shifts at the chapter starts. About my only other criticism is we don't see enough of Desdemona. She has her moments, but this isn't a tale that requires overt sorcery, nor much reference to her well-travelled background. If you're new to the world of the Five Gods, this works more than well enough as a standalone, but you'll get more out of it if you've read both the first Penric novella and, especially, The Hallowed Hunt, which establishes the background of the shamen in Wealds society. Marketed as a novella, but at 160 pages it's definitely pushing into short novel territory.
Probably Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs the Seasons if it's out in the UK, S L Huang's Plastic Smile, the new Cas Russell book, if it isn't.
Forgot to mention I've started following another couple of webcomics: How to Be a Werewolf, and Kismet, which has one completed long story, Hunter's Moon, and another, Suncutter, in progress.
How to Be a Werewolf is contemporary set fantasy, the protagonist, Malaya, is a 20-something Filipina-American barista who was bitten by a werewolf when she was five, but has never had contact with a pack to learn how to be a werewolf, and has led a deliberately sheltered life. Now someone has found out about her and she's in trouble, but she turns out to have more allies than she realized. Several great gay characters and a core mixed race family.
The Kismet stories revolve around the eponymous moon, home to a small colony basically run by crime families, which makes it pretty idosyncratic. Hunter's Moon is about the local offworld militarists running a particularly nasty plot to take out an old terrorist threat. People die. Lots of people die. Suncutter is a separate tale running partly in parallel, about a bootleg spacedrive development programme also being run on Kismet by those same militarists, with some deep family linkages between the two stories, but only limited crossover characters. Despite that I'd definitely read Hunter's Moon first.
Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays and finally got around to setting up cross-posting. You can reply on the original DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/95086.html
. I've left LJ commenting on for the moment, but don't know how often I'll check it and haven't decided what I'll do about it in the long term.