Nov 20
2014

Kirkus on Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Steampunk: Something of a new venture for Bear, whose previous output (Steles of the Sky, 2014, etc.) has ranged from heroic fantasy to science fiction, often with an embedded murder mystery. By the late 19th century, airships ply the trade and passenger routes, optimistic miners head in droves for the Alaskan gold fields, and steam-powered robots invented by licensed Mad Scientists do much of the heavy (and sometimes delicate) work. In Rapid City on the U.S. northwest coast, Madame Damnable operates the Hôtel Mon Cherie, a high-class bordello, paying a hefty “sewing machine tax” for the privilege. Here, orphaned horse-breaker and narrator Karen Memery (Bear doesn’t tell us why the book’s title is spelled differently) works among similarly lively, engaging and resourceful girls. One night, Priya, a malnourished but tough young woman, arrives at the door carrying the badly wounded Merry Lee, who escaped from one of the grim brothels operated by brutal gangster Peter Bantle (and has since made a career of rescuing other indentured girls from Bantle’s clutches). Madame Damnable’s steam-powered mechanical surgeon saves Merry’s life­but not before Bantle himself shows up, wearing, Karen notes, a peculiar glove that somehow can compel others to obey his commands. Worse, the following night the girls discover the body of a murdered prostitute nearby. U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves arrives with his Comanche sidekick, Tomoatooah; they’re tracking a serial killer who seems to have made his way to Rapid City. The story swiftly knots itself into steampunk-ishly surreal complications, with dauntless (and, by this point, love-stricken) Karen in the thick of the action. Supplies all the Bear necessities: strong female characters, existential threats, intriguing developments and a touch of the light fantastic. — Kirkus

Nov 17
2014

Kirkus’ Best Fiction Books of 2014

Congratulations to Elizabeth Bear (STELES OF THE SKY) and Mary Robinette Kowal (VALOUR AND VANITY) whose books made it onto Kirkus’ Best Fiction Books of 2014 list!

Nov 4
2014

Publishers Weekly on Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Bear’s rollicking, suspenseful, and sentimental steampunk novel introduces Karen Memery (“like ‘memory’ only spelt with an e”), a teenage “seamstress”­ that is, a prostitute ­at Madame Damnable’s Hôtel Mon Cherie in Rapid City. This Pacific Northwest city of an alternate 1878 is home to airships, surgical machines, and other mechanical wonders that can also be put to horrific use. As Karen meets and begins to fall for Priya, another sex worker who escaped from evil pimp Peter Bantle, they learn that Bantle has more dark plans than brothel competition. U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves and his Comanche partner, Tomoatooah, also tie Bantle to the gruesome murders of some of Rapid City’s most vulnerable women. Bear (The Eternal Sky) gives Karen a colorful voice, sharp eyes, and the spunk and skills necessary to scuffle with bad types as well as to win over people whose help she needs. Her story is a timeless one: a woman doing what is needed to get by while dreaming and fighting for great things to come. — Publishers Weekly

Feb 20
2014

Starred Kirkus review for conclusion of Elizabeth Bear trilogy

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

Wrapping up Bear’s complex and beautifully rendered historical-fantasy trilogy (Shattered Pillars, 2013, etc.). Necromancer and blood-sorcerer al-Sepehr, head of the Nameless assassin cult, arranged to have his daughter Saadet impregnated by Qori Buqa, Khagan of the nomad horse-warrior Empire, whom he then murdered. Re Temur, Qori Buqa’s nephew and the true heir to the Khaganate, decides to raise his banner at Dragon Lake, site of the Khagan’s vast abandoned palace­but how to reach it? Perhaps his companions, the wizard Samarkar, Hrahima, a huge human-tiger Cho-tse warrior, and the silent monk, Brother Hsiung, can find a way through the magic doorways created by the extinct Erem Empire. But Erem magic is deadly poisonous­Brother Hsiung is already half-blind from attempting to study it. Edene, Temur’s woman, escaped from al-Sepehr by stealing a green Erem ring, which gave her command of the ghuls, a slave race created by Erem, and control of the toxic Erem magic and all poisonous creatures, but an evil presence within it whispers to her­and she’s carrying Temur’s child. She must also deal with a djinn who, appearing sporadically and unpredictably, sometimes offers help while admitting he’s bound, against his will, to al-Sepehr. Various other groups­wizards, warriors, empresses, survivors of the civilizations broken by al-Sepehr’s treachery­converge on Dragon Lake. These and other narrative strands progress and interact through fully realized characters whose personalities and motivations arise from the dazzlingly detailed cultures and landscapes from which they derive. If there’s a disappointment, it’s the bipedal tiger Hrahima, a vigorous presence whose background and motivations remain largely unexplored. Notably, apart from the hero and his antagonist, all the leading characters are women. It all adds up to an eminently satisfying conclusion. Considering the trilogy as a whole, the overused term masterpiece justifiably applies. — Kirkus, Starred Review

Jun 17
2013

PW on Bear’s Book of Iron

Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

Friends are the family we choose, a maxim that lies at the heart of this short but sharp novella, which ties in to Bear’s Eternal Sky novel series. Bijou the Artificer (first met in 2010’s Bone and Jewel Creatures, here young and eager for adventure) joins the immortal Maledysaunte on a quest to the abandoned city of Ancient Erem to stop Dr. Liebelos, a precisian (wizard of orderliness), from summoning the Iron Book. With them go a crew of allies with mixed motives, including Kaulas the Necromancer, who is Bijou’s lover and rival, and the wizard Salamander, Maledysaunte’s companion and daughter to Dr. Liebelos. Under skies whose moons and suns vary in number, they must confront the threats of legendary beasts and betrayal. Bear injects the fizz of the Roaring ’20s (including travel by roadster, automatic pistols , aeroplanes, and silent movies) into a thoughtful exploration of dealing with loss. — Publishers Weekly

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