Tag Archives: Sharon Lee

Review of EBOOK Kindle edition Saltation – A Liaden Universe novel by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

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Saltation : That which proceeds by leaps rather than by smooth and orderly progression.

saltationI thought I’d start this review with the definition of the word saltation – and once you get hold of this book, you realise the title is actually apt and rather cool… But if you haven’t yet encountered the Liaden Universe books before, track down at least the first book about Theo Waitley, which is Fledgling – see my review here – or one of the other eight books in the Liaden series. Lee and Miller don’t do any form of reprise and their world is so layered and complex with a raft of rather daunting invented names bristling with vowels and apostrophes, it would be a real shame to spend time flailing around trying to work out what is going on rather than appreciating the verve and fun going on in this enjoyable book.

Theo Waitley is a Nexus of Violence. Thrust mid-year into a school for pilots far from the safe haven of her birth home on scholarly Delgado, young Theo Waitley excels in hands-on flying while finding that she’s behind the curve in social intricacies as well as in math. Her mentors try to guide her studies and training into the channels best suited to her special abilities and inclinations, including suggesting that she should join in the off-world student association, a plan resulting in mixed success…

I loved Fledgling. Already a fan of Lee’s Archer’s Beach series – see my review of Carousel Sun here – I was delighted to see that she had co-written the Liaden Universe series with her husband. So, did Saltation continue to excite and intrigue me? Yep. I really enjoy the way humanity has splintered off into societies with not only different languages, but significantly different customs and profoundly differing views on what constitutes acceptable behaviour. Theo’s heritage as a pilot is hampered by her upbringing on a planet which doesn’t even recognise her father’s input as important.

This book starts charting the next slice of Theo’s training – and then suddenly shoots off on another tangent, whisking Theo along with a turn of events all the more shocking because to date, this book has been dealing with her everyday doings. I became engrossed in the daily details of her routine and her struggles to succeed at mastering the craft of becoming a pilot. For me, the pull of this genre is to escape into a future world where I become immersed in the character and her aims and ambitions – and Saltation completely achieves this.

While there were rumblings of discontent portrayed throughout the book, the ending and cliffhanger climax came as a complete surprise – and I was delighted that the sequel was already in a pile by my bedside, so that as I put down Saltation, I was immediately able to turn to Ghost Ship and pick up where the story left off – something I generally rarely do.

Any grizzles? Well… it’s more of an observation, really. But I think I’ll echo Himself’s grumble at having space-going ships routinely hacking through a planet’s atmosphere to land and take off, which I think would be highly unlikely. But it’s a minor quibble, rather than any kind of dealbreaker in a book and series packed with all sorts of pleasing worldbuilding details. If you, too, love intelligent, well depicted space opera and enjoyable protagonists then seek out this series – it’s a joy.
9/10

Review of Fledgling – A Liaden Universe novel by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

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After having thoroughly enjoyed reading Sharon Lee’s Carousel Sun – see my review here – Himself scooped up anything else he could get together that she’d written. And came up with this science fiction space opera that she has co-written with her husband, Steve Miller.

fledglingDelgado is a Safe World. That means the population is monitored – for its own good – and behaviour dangerous to society is quickly corrected. Delgado is also the home of one of the galaxy’s premier institutions of higher learning, producing both impeccable research and scholars of flair and genius.

On Safe Delgado, then, Theo Waitley, daughter of Professor Kamele Waitley, latest in a long line of Waitley scholars, is “physically challenged” and on a course to being declared a Danger to Society. Theo’s clumsiness didn’t matter so much when she and her mother lived out in the suburbs with her mother’s lover, Jen Sar Kiladi. But, suddenly, Kamele leaves Jen Sar and moves herself and Theo into faculty housing, immediately becoming sucked into faculty politics. Leaving Theo adrift and shocked – and vulnerable…

This coming-of-age novel is largely in fourteen-year-old Theo’s viewpoint. But it isn’t particularly aimed at the YA market – although I’d have no problem with any teenager reading it. The world is deftly realised and it took me a few pages just to absorb the strangeness and different customs, as Lee and Miller don’t hold up the pace with pages of explanation. So readers need to keep alert. However, this book is a delight. My very favourite sub-genre is accessible, enjoyable science fiction and when I read a cracking example of it – I realise it is the one sub-genre that I never tire of. Mostly, because it is also in relatively short supply…

There is an interesting backstory to this book. Apparently there are some seventeen novels set in this particular world, though some of them have had a bumpy ride after one of their publishers went bankrupt. Fledgling was written and released in 2007 online as a chap-book and eventually taken up by Baen and published after its popularity with readers.

Theo is clearly a major protagonist, whose story arc is going to extend over a number of books – and that’s fine with me. Lee and Miller manage to pack a great deal of everyday, routine details into this book without any of it dragging, as it is all enmeshed within the evolving plot. And those who claim genre fiction has to be all about constant breathless action that whisks protagonists from one major emergency to another, should sit down with a Lee and Miller book.

I also am delighted to report that the book is fairly upbeat most of the time. Of course there are times of tension and some danger – but it is of the subtle, utterly believable kind. I read this book in one greedy gulp, literally unable to put it down until I’d finished. And hours later, I’m still fizzing with pleasure and excitement… If you like family-based science fiction with a wonderfully described world and plenty of enjoyable characters, then give yourself a treat.
10/10

Review of Carousel Sun – Book 2 of Archer’s Beach by Sharon Lee

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I loved Carousel Tides, – see my review here – which is the start of this wonderful paranormal series, so as soon as I saw this offering on the shelves, I immediately scooped it up. Would I enjoy it as much as the first book?

carousel sunKate Archer, owner-operator of the vintage wooden carousel, is caught up in the excitement—and is quite possibly the cause of it. Because Kate leads a double life, as carny, and as Guardian of the land. Her recent return to the home she had forsaken has changed the town’s luck—for the better—and energized the trenvay—earth and water spirits who are as much citizens of the Beach as their mundane counterparts. But the town’s new energy isn’t the only change afoot. Joe Nemeier, the local drug lord, whose previous magical consultant was vanquished by Kate, has acquired a new ally—and this one plays with fire.

This book immediately picks up where the first book left off, which means the pace continues. Though if you are expecting to be whirled up into a maelstrom of non-stop action, then you need to simmer down. Lee manages to pull off the really neat trick of giving us a ringside seat into Kate’s daily life without it seeming remotely boring. We get to know what she eats, how she feels about the other residents, how well she sleeps, the weather, what her work routine is… And her feelings about Brogan. As well as gaining a fascinating insight into the struggles of a small tourist town on the Maine coast.

Why do I end up reading this apparently mundane routine in greedy vociferous gulps? Because entwined in Kate’s daily life are shafts of the paranormal activity that flitters just under the surface. It is beautifully done. For my money, no one else writes paranormal fantasy quite like Lee. The closest I can think of is Modesitt’s wonderful series, The Ghosts of Columbia, which is him at his awesome best in my opinion – see my review here.

As she narrates all the normal, everyday stuff happening in her life, the struggle with the darker forces surrounding Archer’s Beach and the political fallout regarding the other realms on the doorstep unfold. Interleaving the everyday in amongst the fantastic so completely produces a lovely fey quality to the Maine landscape.

I’ve never been there, but Lee’s world sings off the page so sharply depicted, I can taste the salt tang and smell the coffee. The consequence is that when things do kick off, there is a real sense of shock. Lee is in complete control of the narrative, so the story comes to satisfactory conclusion, while leaving a couple of plotpoints dangling for the next slice of paranormal oddness to unfold in Archer’s Beach.

Any niggles. Hm – just one… the book isn’t all that long. And I came to the end of it with a real sense of loss. I could have read more of Lee’s magical world – in fact I could have read it all day. And that’s it, really. This is a gem. And if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, go looking for Carousel Tides. This really is a special treat for those of you who like your fiction laced with magic.
10/10

Review of Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee

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I’ve been increasingly impressed at the quality of writing coming out of Baen – so when I noticed this book on the library shelves, I immediately picked it up.

The hidden world lurking in the shadows of coastal Maine outside the tourist season, is where Black Dogs hunt the night and selkies carousel tidestoss unpleasant truths over their shoulders before diving into the next wave. In the center of this, Kate Archer tends and guards one of the spookiest carousels this side of Ray Bradbury and wonders what has happened to her grandmother. The old woman sent her a letter, left papers deeding over the carousel, house and Land (meaning much more than property), and vanished, telling the spirits of the land and sea that she expected to be back before the turning of the year.  Now March has come and gone and Kate must return from self-exile to take up powers and responsibilities she has renounced, or dying will be the least of her problems.

Whether this is magic realism, or contemporary fantasy is a call for someone else – what it definitely isn’t – is a crime/thriller set in a modern city where the protagonist is ranged against vamps/weres while fighting an undeniable physical attraction with said supernatural beasties… In other words – it is different from the general run of modern fantasy – to the extent that I would be very reluctant to park it on a shelf labelled Urban Fantasy.

Kate Archer relinquished her responsibilities to the Land and walked away, believing that it was her duty to do so. She has returned with reluctance, ailing and angry, to find that everything is not as it should be. Right from the start, Lee plunges us into the action in this atmospheric corner of Maine and has us completely identifying with her protagonist as Kate has to confront a range of enemies, some human and some definitely not…

The world is beautifully conveyed with cinematic sharpness without any loss of narrative pace – not an easy thing to pull off. However, it all appears effortless in the capable, talented hands of Lee. From the first page, I realised that I was in for an enjoyable ride in an engrossing world, peopled with a cast of interesting, eccentrically different people. The mention of Ray Bradbury isn’t as random as it might appear – I was reminded of the Great Man in the characterisation and feel of this story – the batwing horse is definitely one I’m going to remember for a while… Lee is clearly thoroughly familiar with this area of Maine, although the actual town of Archers Beach is a conglomeration of a number of similar places. Not only does she know this part of the world – she loves it. That affection resonates throughout the book, giving her writing an extra depth and grounding.

The plot whisks along at just the right pace – not so much that we lose out on the wonderful setting and interesting characters, but providing plenty of impetus to turn the pages… I should have stopped reading and settled down for an early night – but I read on until the small hours to discover what happened. And these days, I don’t do that very often.

This enjoyable gem will linger in the mind for a long time with a grin of pleasure to accompany it – and let’s face it, with the constant bad news crowding our papers and tv screens – anything that can achieve that is worth reading.
10/10