Mar 29
2013

Starred PW review for Elizabeth Bear story collection

Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear

Many novelists translate badly to short form, but Hugo award-winner Bear (Range of Ghosts) loses none of her depth or emotional power in this anthology of fierce, lonely tales about sacrifice, bravery, and loss. Missteps—her use of real historical figures in “Sonny Liston Takes the Fall” seems to imply that Muhammad Ali owed his career to another boxer’s mystical sacrifice—are rare. Bear at her best is magical, as in “The Girl Who Sang Rose Madder,” in which a former rock star has to choose between death as an artist and immortality as an undead hack musician. Other standouts include the title story, about a black professor in the 1930s who finds kinship with the Lovecraftian monsters he studies, and “The Cold Blacksmith,” a bittersweet fairy tale about what it takes to mend a heart. As in her novels, Bear’s world-building is absorbingly rich and strange, full of blue parrot cats, ruthless Mongol-ish princesses, and modern alleyways haunted by cockatrices and harpies, and adventurous readers will find her storytelling absolutely irresistible. — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Mar 18
2013

PW review of new Elizabeth Bear fantasy

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Imperial intrigue and dark magic haunt the pages of Bear’s second Mongolia-inspired fantasy epic installment (after Range of Ghosts). The necromancer priest al-Sepehr is bringing war to the world, placing his allies and minions throughout the nations to see them crumble. But beyond his control are Edene, who has stolen the green ring that makes her ruler of the ancient and treacherous realm of Erem; bold imperial scion Temur; the wizard and once-princess Samarkar; Hrahima, a warrior of the tiger people; and the silent monk Hsiung, who is touched by the madness of Erem. Temur and his companions wade through court politics until war finds them and they make their way to al-Sepehr’s stronghold to free Edene, not realizing she has already escaped. Bear drives the plot forward through darkness and loss, allowing her heroes little respite between trials as her villains gain power. The building danger and sense of impossible odds beautifully set up the concluding volume. — Publishers Weekly

Feb 25
2013

Booklist review of new Bear fantasy

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Bear’s astonishing world building is in full swing here, and she builds the arcs of her two major characters into what hopes to be a brilliant whole in the forthcoming final book. Temur and Samarkar still search for Edene, captured by the leader of the Uthman cult, who are bent on sowing war in the lands of the Celadon Highway. Edene, escaped, travels under the deadly sky of a vanished empire. The wizards’ city is besieged, a sickness felling the population. Tsering is at the heart of studying it, and she is a tremendous force despite never having developed the wizard’s power. Temur and Samarkar’s journey, under the skies of many people, is epic. But Bear maintains the nuance she is so capable of, in the way characters interact with and respond to new places, not quite subverting genre but pointing out how much more it should be. This is a novel with no padding: everything is necessary and linked, and the politics that run through the various empires are rooted solidly in believable human motivation. — Booklist

Feb 11
2013

RT gives new Bear fantasy 4 1/2 Stars!

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Edene, having been kidnapped and fought her way free, must now raise an army for her betrothed, Temur, and find her way back to him. Meanwhile, Temur is attempting to wrangle his way through political intrigue and plague to reunite with Edene, reclaim his birthright from his uncle and discover the truth behind the magics that are engulfing his lands. Former princess Samarkar is faithful and steadfast, throwing all her influence — and not insignificant skill — behind Temur.

Shattered Pillars is the remarkable continuation of the first in the series, Range of Ghosts. Bear’s prose continues to weave itself effortlessly throughout the novel, with a detailed substance that does not hinder the action of the novel. The characters are full blooded and rich, shaped by their environment, and also by the challenges and casualties of it. Not recommended as a stand-alone; start with Range of Ghosts but then definitely pick up Shattered Pillars! — Romantic Times, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick!

Jan 21
2013

Starred review for new fantasy from Elizabeth Bear

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Second entry of a complex and beautifully rendered historical-fantasy trilogy (after Range of Ghosts, 2012).

Prime mover in all the churning plots and intrigues here is ambitious necromancer and blood-sorcerer al-Sepehr, head of the Nameless assassin cult. He has arranged to install usurper Qori Buqa as ruler of the nomad horse-warrior Khaganate Empire, although he failed to kill Temur, the true heir and Qori Buqa’s nephew. Having captured Edene, Temur’s woman, al-Sepehr conveyed her to his remote, impregnable fortress, Ala-Din. Resourceful Edene, however, stole a mysteriously powerful green ring and escaped—though Temur doesn’t yet know this. Edene flees to Erem, capital of a long-extinct empire whose magic was feared by all, where now heavily pregnant, she’s declared queen by the nonhuman ghuls because of the ring. Hoping to rally the horse-clans to his cause, Temur sets off with his companions, Samarkar the wizard and Hrahima, a huge human-tiger Cho-tse warrior, to rescue Edene. Al-Sepehr sends his daughter and agent, Saadet—she carries in her head the mind of her slain brother, Shahruz, previously slain by Temur—to beguile and bamboozle Qori Buqa, his supposed ally. Meanwhile, al-Sepehr studies the magic of Erem, forcing slave-women to read aloud from books of magic so powerful that the mere act of reading them causes blindness. And the Rasan Empire, riven by internal politics and treachery, suffers a lethal plague whence tiny demons hatch in the lungs of its victims. All this is less tightly woven than the first volume, and in one or two places, Bear forgoes logic for furious action and writes herself into a corner. Still, these are minor blemishes amid the meticulously detailed cultural and geographic backdrop. A compelling follow-up that no fan of Book 1 will want to miss. –Kirkus, Starred Review

« Previous EntriesNext Entries »