Gerry Paige Smith

Raised on a resource-starved and dangerous world, Gyre’s survival is a testament to both her durability and her motivation to do everything it takes to escape her home. With the planet’s only wealth locked in minerals below the surface, going underground as a caver comes with extreme risks, but it’s one of the only ways to make enough money to live—or to leave. With only a mysterious note in her wake, Gyre’s mother fled from her husband and child to seek a better life off-planet. Poverty and abandonment have propelled Gyre to risk everything for enough money to seek out her mother, to perhaps understand why she left. Gyre doesn’t have an issue with the surgical modification needed to suit up for extended subsurface exploration, nor regrets over the lies she tells to get hired, get paid and get off-planet.

Assuming she has a whole surface team to monitor and support her first exploration, Gyre trusts her suit’s technology and her own skills to ensure she completes her mission. But as her descent underground reveals missing supplies and altered routes, Gyre discovers that her surface support consists of only one handler, one voice in her helmet named Em. Communicating through the suit, Gyre finds her mounting concerns about the mission are met with misdirection and half-truths. Their terse exchanges begin to launch red flags that Em’s plan for the descent may by very different from the job Gyre signed on for.

The gulf between Gyre and Em seems as vast as the distance from the cave depths to the surface. As their combative communications evolve, they discover some fragile common ground. Each may hold the only key to answers for the other. But with lies and secrets damning both Gyre and Em, the only way for the two explorers to move forward is to keep going down. As Gyre navigates around the corpses of earlier cavers, deadly testimony to the harsh journey, each subtly whispers the dangers of putting faith in the voice they also trusted to guide them back. Gyre’s battle to survive may depend on which voices she trusts; the ones in her head, or the one on her headset.

While the story’s premise has the potential to be a bit claustrophobic, the literary landscape is surprisingly vast. Below ground the narrow passages open into great rooms, waterfalls plunge over subterranean cliffs and rivers run through tunnels left by the passage of enormous hidden creatures. Luminescent flora and fauna add haunting illumination that punctuates the descent, revealing hints of both horror and profound beauty. And the mental and emotional territory explored within the suit, between Em and Gyre, is enormous as well. With twists, turns, rock falls and drop-offs, the dangerous navigation of the cave mirrors the challenges they confront as their connection to each other evolves.

Boldly building a psychological sci-fi thriller with a cast of two, Caitlin Starling’s debut novel explores the horrors hidden within profound physical and psychological stress. As they navigate unknown territory, both caver and handler risk being trapped by emotional obstacles that could bury them both. Testing the limits of endurance and trust, The Luminous Dead sheds a revealing light on the extraordinary dark depths that the human mind and body will plumb in search of answers and illumination.

Raised on a resource-starved and dangerous world, Gyre’s survival is a testament to both her durability and her motivation to do everything it takes to escape her home. With the planet’s only wealth locked in minerals below the surface, going underground as a caver comes with extreme risks, but it’s one of the only ways to make enough money to live—or to leave.

After being violently apprehended by mercenaries, Ada von Hasenberg’s mind is already sorting through her options for escape as she’s dragged along spaceship corridors toward an uncertain end. As the fifth daughter of one of the vast Consortium’s most powerful Houses, she’s managed to survive for two years on the run from her fate as a political pawn destined for a strategic marriage. But even with the skills and resources she’s acquired as a fugitive among the stars, her father’s enormous bounty for her capture has finally brought Ada to heel.

In the dark confines of her captors’ brig, Ada finds her last chance to escape may be hanging in chains on the opposite wall. Notorious across the systems as the Devil of Fornax Zero, her cellmate Marcus Loch represents both certain danger and potential salvation. United by the knowledge that they each face a different kind of doom, they combine talents in a dangerous bid for freedom. Despite an instant physical attraction between them, Ada fears she’s hitching her getaway hopes on a killer, and Loch knows his escape might be complicated by the company of this tempting fugitive scion.

Sprinting from planet to planet on stolen transports as they scrabble for resources and allies, Ada and Loch accidentally discover technology that rival Houses would kill to possess. The pair’s path to freedom evolves as they struggle to unravel the tech’s mysteries before the Consortium erupts into war. In their quest for answers, the revelation of a shared enemy in their pursuer binds Ada and Loch closer. But the vast difference between their individual motives may send their smoldering romance up in flames.

An independent woman with powerful self-knowledge, Ada’s story is free of “rescued princess” tropes that can diminish a space opera. In a refreshing turn, Mihalik doesn’t compromise the action with a constant sexual undercurrent, but rather allows Ada and Loch to revel together in singular moments that perfectly punctuate the novel’s high energy pacing. The erotic elements are written with an economy that lets sex be sex, without an excess of emotional angst or contrived foreplay. The romance is raw, spare and more powerful for it.

Along with her remarkable world building, Mihalik introduces rich supporting characters that are deftly drawn into both the running battles as well as the layered political intrigue. With Ada and Loch’s future unclear and the fate of worlds hanging in the balance, Polaris Rising sets a magnificent stage for Mihalik’s next installment in the Consortium Rebellion trilogy.

After being violently apprehended by mercenaries, Ada von Hasenberg’s mind is already sorting through her options for escape as she’s dragged along spaceship corridors toward an uncertain end. As the fifth daughter of one of the vast Consortium’s most powerful Houses, she’s managed to survive for two years on the run from her fate as a political pawn destined for a strategic marriage. But even with the skills and resources she’s acquired as a fugitive among the stars, her father’s enormous bounty for her capture has finally brought Ada to heel.

Disillusioned by their service to the Crown in a brutal war marked by siege, starvation and unimaginable violence, a rootless assemblage of former soldiers elect to follow their battlefield priest and confessor, Tomas Piety, home from the killing fields. But Piety’s return to Ellinburg won’t offer a hero’s welcome. As the city’s former crime boss, his businesses and underworld networks have been usurped and claimed by outsiders in his absence. His homecoming, with dangerous associates at his back, sets the scene for a entirely new and equally deadly conflict.

As he crafts plans to seize back control of his criminal enterprises, Tomas must also assemble his former brothers-in-arms into a new kind of fighting force, transforming soldiers into Pious Men who will help him reclaim his illicit rule of Ellinburg. And while the soldiers bid goodbye and good riddance to the machinations of the Crown when they left the battlefield, the Crown isn’t finished with Tomas and his men. Between pitched battles in the streets and bloody raids to reclaim Pious Men territory, the Crown inserts its own deadly agent to complicate Tomas’ political maneuvers from the shadows.

Trust among his battle-shocked crew of veterans runs thin and Tomas balances on a knife’s edge as he tests their loyalties and his authority is threatened by a rivalry between his explosively violent brother and Tomas’ equally deadly second, Sergeant Bloody Anne. Like a weapon that could turn in his hand, the Pious men are all killers, one of them with emerging magical powers that are dangerous to friend and foe alike. Violent and visceral, the expletive-laden action weaves through bawdy houses, back rooms and bars as the stakes and the body counts escalate. Peter McLean’s rendering of battle fatigue as well as the traumas of physical and emotional abuse fosters an emotional investment for readers that elevates this title above other “run and gun” adventures.

Set in a Tudor-esque alternate world, Priest of Bones paints its literary landscape in broad, masculine strokes. But as the real power players emerge, McLean’s female characters conquer the foreground as Tomas’ strongest assets—and his deadliest counterparts. With its charismatic merging of backstreet magic, gangland conflict and political power struggles in a city teetering on the edge of destruction, Priest of Bones launches a breathtaking opening salvo as in the War for the Rose Throne series.

Disillusioned by their service to the Crown in a brutal war marked by siege, starvation and unimaginable violence, a rootless assemblage of former soldiers elect to follow their battlefield priest and confessor, Tomas Piety, home from the killing fields. But Piety’s return to Ellinburg won’t offer a hero’s welcome. As the city’s former crime boss, his businesses and underworld networks have been usurped and claimed by outsiders in his absence. His homecoming, with dangerous associates at his back, sets the scene for a entirely new and equally deadly conflict.

Two new adaptations of King Lear and Macbeth revisit the Bard’s vision of power and its corruptibility, drawing deeply from the well of his obsession with greed and ambition.

Tessa Gratton’s The Queens of Innis Lear mines a magical landscape tortured by madness, while Macbeth by Jo Nesbø casts its namesake character in a 1970s Scottish noir.

The Queens of Innis Lear turns Shakespeare’s tragedy into a sweeping fantasy that pulls back the curtain on a family soaked in bloody conflict. When the king of Innis Lear turns away from the island’s traditional earth magic and forces his kingdom to rely on star prophecy, the splintering of his family begins. But it is the king’s descent into dementia that creates a climate ripe for betrayal and sows the seeds of discord between his three daughters.

Elia, the youngest and most devoted daughter, is shunned and exiled by her father when she refuses to proclaim her love for him. When Lear’s warrior daughter Gaela joins forces with her cunning sister Regan to claim the throne, the stage is set for war. Moving among them is Elia’s childhood friend, the scorned bastard Ban, whose loyalty shifts between the players with deadly precision.

Gratton’s literary landscape is lush and full of unique magical elements. The trees, winds and waters of Innis Lear whisper to the inhabitants of the island, especially those who refuse to respect the prophecies of the stars. This beautiful retelling of King Lear probes the nature of madness and power within a stunning new fantasy world.

Set in the gritty industrial wasteland of the Scottish coast, Nesbø’s Macbeth turns “the Scottish play”—Shakespeare’s definitive exposition on the thirst for power—into a violent police procedural. Duncan is a visionary chief of police poised to bring down both a notorious biker gang and the mysterious drug lord Hecate. Aided by SWAT team leader Macbeth and Narcotic Unit leader Duff, Duncan plans to eradicate the drug trade. But Macbeth falls under the spell of his paramour, Lady, as she whispers of his potential for advancement. Lady’s stratagems play into Hecate’s plans to gain a puppet within law enforcement. As Macbeth’s star ascends through murder and mayhem, he descends further into madness.

The latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which acclaimed authors put their own spin on Shakespeare’s works, Macbeth perfectly pairs a modern master of crime fiction with Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy. While retaining most of the original character names from Macbeth, Nesbø masterfully crafts fully fleshed players from each original role to present a visceral, contemporary exploration of ambition and corruption.

From the mists of a mystical isle to the grime of a decaying city, Gratton and Nesbø retell two of the Bard’s best-known plays with refreshing vision and respect for the original tales. The Queens of Innis Lear and Macbeth are wonderful returns to the works of Shakespeare.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Two new adaptations of King Lear and Macbeth revisit the Bard’s vision of power and its corruptibility, drawing deeply from the well of his obsession with greed and ambition.

Special Agent Shannon Moss is assigned by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to help solve the brutal murder of a Navy SEAL’s family—but that’s not her only mission regarding the crime. Embedded in the NCIS, Moss is also part of a black ops program that travels to deep space and potential future timelines. The prime suspect in the family’s ritualistic slaying (and the potential kidnapper of a child missing from the murder scene) has been presumed dead for years, his ship destroyed during an early intergalactic mission. Essentially, Agent Moss is searching for a man who shouldn’t exist.

Armed with Navy technology that can propel agents into possible futures, Moss ventures forward in time, searching for clues to solve the 1997 murders. Looming over both her investigation and the time travel program is the revelation that an apocalyptic event designated Terminus is moving closer in history, approaching the present. Agent Moss’ excursions into potential timelines reveal grim domestic terror events evolving from the original murder, as well as an unexplained acceleration of the Terminus cataclysm.

Tom Sweterlitsch has crafted a powerful and compelling protagonist in Shannon Moss, a female amputee navigating the military and law enforcement structure of the 1990s. Her stamina and versatility in the face of shifting possibilities and loyalties stem from a life spent overcoming the odds. She battles mounting physical and emotional scars beneath an unflinching facade as allies evolve into enemies, victims become suspects, and the future threatens everything that came before it.

Built on the solid foundation of a mystery novel, The Gone World displays the mesmerizing power of rich speculative fiction, which drives the investigation forward (and backward) in time. Transporting readers to increasingly hostile timelines, Sweterlitsch delivers visceral and unflinching action in this dynamic merger of murder mystery and futuristic vision.

Built on the solid foundation of a mystery novel, The Gone World displays the mesmerizing power of rich speculative fiction, which drive the investigation forward (and backward) in time. Transporting readers to increasingly hostile timelines, Sweterlitsch delivers visceral and unflinching action in this dynamic merger of murder mystery and futuristic vision.

The Black Death has draped a cloak of contagion across the landscape of southwest England in 1382. Traveling toward Exeter, where he carves the stone of the cathedral, John and his brother, William, navigate the growing horror of a plague that can touch any person, high or low. Surrounded by the grim proof of mortality, their conversation turns to the merit of good deeds versus faith alone as surety for life everlasting. But when the mounting corpses become too much to bear, John’s desperate attempt to save one life changes the fates of both brothers.

As they begin to suffer symptoms of plague, a disembodied voice offers John and William a choice: The brothers can travel home and chance delivering death to their family, or they can live six more days, awakening each morning in their beloved community, 99 years after each previous day. Choosing to spare their loved ones from the risk of plague, the brothers begin their journey forward through six centuries.

With each morning’s awakening, the community’s profound political and physical changes inspire both a sense of marvel and a growing dismay. In each new century, as the brothers’ home recedes further into the past, evidence of their existence becomes harder to find. Even John’s stone carvings erode and crumble, his physical mark on the world diminishing as time passes. The strides forward in time become a living tour of what follows after we are gone, the future that our present lives may—or may not—touch.

Combining his credentials as a bestselling historian with an intimate knowledge of Exeter and the surrounding landscape, author Ian Mortimer plumbs a dynamic sliver of the world through evolving cultural epochs. Casting a line into a historical moment defined by death, Mortimer reels in a narrative of persistence and hope. Addressing universal questions about our personal impact on the world to come, The Outcasts of Time is an erudite and thoughtful exploration of death that brings history to life.

The Black Death has draped a cloak of contagion across the landscape of southwest England in 1382. Traveling toward Exeter, where he carves the stone of the cathedral, John and his brother, William, navigate the growing horror of a plague that can touch any person, high or low. Surrounded by the grim proof of mortality, their conversation turns to the merit of good deeds versus faith alone as surety for life everlasting. But when the mounting corpses become too much to bear, John’s desperate attempt to save one life changes the fates of both brothers.

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