Krista McKeeth

Krista McKeeth is a writer, book reviewer and blogger from Utah. You can find her online at CubicleBlindness.

ZourkovaMesmerizing and addictive, Wildalone is a thrilling blend of the modern and the fantastic. Krassi Zourkova creates an atmospheric world filled with rich characters as compelling as those of Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, and Stephenie Meyer. 

Hardcover, 384 pages

Published January 6th 2015 by William Morrow

ISBN  0062328026 (ISBN13: 9780062328021)

 

Right before she decides which college to attend, Thea finds out a family secret that is connected to Princeton and becomes determined to go there for her studies. She can explore more about who she wants to become, learn new things about the world, and discover the deepest, darkest secrets of her own family. At her first piano concert, which gets immediate national attention, she sees a mysterious man who leaves a flower. Her thoughts quickly turn to meeting him again.

I went into the story thinking it would mostly focus on Thea’s search for answers like an amateur detective, but it soon turns into a complicated combination of a love triangle, mythology, and sex. There is a huge focus on the mythology surrounding Dionysus, and the sex is not graphic, but more about Thea’s continuing thought processes and the beginnings of her first intense adult relationships.

The writing has an equal mix of romance and mythological information. The mythology and lore, mostly from Bulgaria and Greece, has been well-researched and I enjoyed the way it sets the tone and pushes the story’s emotions beyond a traditional love triangle story. The narration gives a feeling of dream-like poetry and there is a mist-like feeling of not quite being able to see beyond what is happening in front of you. You can see enough to understand what direction you’re being taken in, but you are drip-fed information to build up anticipation for the next time the major characters meet.

As the story progressed, I started to find the characters very frustrating–especially Thea. I enjoyed the side characters and their impact on the story so much more. Yet when it came to the main focus of the story–Thea and Rhys–I found their encounters to be very hot and cold, indecisive, and at times infuriating.

As a reader, I felt emotionally drained after their encounters and found it hard to really come to terms with Thea’s thoughts and actions.

The book has been broken into two sections and by the end of the first I was already exhausted by the whirlwind of emotions. I was happy with the pacing and the climax of the second half of the story as it answered so many questions, but still left me a little breathless and wondering whether this story will continue on in another book.

Every once in a while I have a love/hate relationship with a book. I loved the plot, storyline, and writing style, yet I felt like I needed something more from the characters. I do hope that there is a continuation in another book that will help me understand these characters further. Overall, I enjoyed Wildalone and would recommend it; it was a rollercoaster of a read and I don’t think I will ever come across a more sensual scene of piano playing again in my lifetime. Who knew that playing the piano could be foreplay?

 

Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an Australian SF writer who lives Sydney. He has a keen interest in cyberpunk and Japan.

Stevenson_Horizon_C2D2Half a century from earth, six explorers sleep dreamless sleep on a journey to explore a planet that could lead to either salvation or destruction for humanity. That planet; Horizon.

Decades after the events that caused the formation of a few, all-powerful mega-nations, Cait Dyson emerges early from deep sleep aboard the star ship Magellan to find one crew member dead, another in a coma, and the shipboard artificial intelligence turned off. A fearful situation in a crew of those you know and trust; but far worse when your ship contains a half dozen people from other nations cobbled together in a feigned display of camaraderie.

In very short order, Cait is confronted by a crew that doesn’t trust her, no way to call for support, and in a ship many light years from earth and plunging towards possibly the only habitable planet within humanity’s reach. To top it all off, the events taking place back on earth are rapidly forcing her hand to make decisions she is far from comfortable with.

Horizon is a masterful novel set in the cold void of space between solar systems, where trust is as much a valued resource as air or food. The premise behind the original mission is simple enough and pretty standard for Sci-Fi; a group of explorers are sent on a deep space exploration mission to investigate a near-earth planet that could one day be suitable for habitation. This mission quickly degrades in the light of new orders and differing opinions. As each of the characters come from radically different cultures, background tensions become readily apparent, and interactions turn hostile rapidly in such a close environment. As a result, conversation is tight and abrupt, but Stevenson manages to keep the short dialogues relevant and concise; making up for lack of quantity with sharp efficiency.

Stevenson has taken to the harsh reality of space with the tools of a craftsman. The cold ruthless efficiency of space travel is accented with distinct and descriptive technology: deep-space engines, near-human artificial intelligences, and cybernetic design that is not quite viable at the moment, but feels so real in prose. Every character has his or her own flaws and agenda- evidence of a life that is no longer possible so far from everything they know and love. And the bitter reality of what is happening far behind them is a stark reminder of what humans can do.

All that said, Horizon isn’t a depressing novel. It’s cold and terrifying at times, sure, but tinged with purpose and beauty. Not quite hard Sci-Fi, but far from soft, Stevenson has written about a world like our own, in a future that could almost be, with people very close to us. True science fiction, and a true pleasure to read.

A. V. Mather

A. V. Mather is a Brisbane-based speculative fiction writer. You can follow her on Twitter @AVMather

sullivan_ShadowboxerI admit that I came to this YA fantasy/action novel with a little trepidation. Professional fighting – in this case, Muay Thai fighting – is just not my thing. The sum of my experience in this subject comes from watching Jet Li movies (of which I am especially fond), which puts me, maybe, a fingernail ahead of total ignorance.

Given that, I was delighted to find myself completely engaged by ‘Shadowboxer.’ Tricia Sullivan won me over with a story that is filled to bursting with impassioned characters, ruthless villains, mysterious places, and hungry ghosts. Her world is a richly layered place, filled with intrigue and action and woven through with a unique element of fantasy. This multicultural story is complex and follows two disparate characters whose lives are about to become enmeshed.

Latina American, Jade Barrera, is trying to channel her aggression into her dream of becoming a professional Muay Thai fighter, but when you’re a teenager with ‘angry bones’ things have a habit of getting out of control very quickly. She has already ruined her first big fight and then compounded the foul-up by punching out martial arts movie star, Tommy Zhang, who’d dissed the local stray cat. Now, she must do whatever it takes to win back the favour of Mr Big – her mentor and owner of Mr Big’s Combat Sports Emporium –for messing up his potential business relationship with Zhang. Unfortunately for Jade, redemption comes in the form of banishment to a gym and training camp in Thailand, run by Mr Big’s cousin.

For eight year old Burmese war refugee, Mya, life so far has been frightening and confusing. Taken from a Burmese prison camp to an orphanage in Thailand, she is now indebted to her benefactor, Mr Richards. But Mya is no ordinary peasant girl, nor is Mr Richards a kindly old man.

She has been specifically chosen by him, along with other children, for her ability to enter the Immortal Forest, a place of legend that exists between our world and the next. Mr Richards has been using gifted children and the Forest for illegal endeavours and has plans for Mya that will see him ascend to a position of unchallenged power.

Although their life experiences are literally worlds apart, when Jade and Mya come together they find a kinship that provides the strength that each needs to battle their demons. Mya’s subtle mysticism compliments Jade’s hard-edged urban style. The world of competitive fighting and the spiritualism of Thailand provide a rich background for their story. The ‘fish out of water’ scenario works well for both characters and it is satisfying to watch Jade’s character growth as the story develops. Beneath all of the action, there also lies a subtext of two girls trying to find their place within worlds dominated by controlling male figures.

A great deal of research has gone into this novel and the author has crafted her world with care. There are no false notes as the story moves between the backstreets of New York, the slums of Thailand and the fantasy world of the Immortal Forest. Combining all of these elements into a believable story and then telling it with the voices of a tough Latina teenager and a young Burmese orphan is no small task. Tricia Sullivan manages to make it look easy and this is a terrific story for YA fantasy readers who are looking for something different. So much in YA urban/supernatural fantasy centres on young protagonists who discover a hidden world and become warriors. ‘Shadowboxer’ delivers a fresh perspective on this theme which I found rewarding and refreshing.

 

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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