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Science Fiction for January 2023
by Henry L Lazarus
    According to what I understand of human nature from reading Fantasy, Science Fiction and of course History, 2023 promises to be more turbulent than 2022. I hope I’m wrong.
Palmer Pickering has a solid tale of a world where mages and stone guardians fought so much they were exiled and magic was forbidden. Teleo, a former soldier who had lost his family in a raid is working as a artistic stonemason repairing the Heliotrope (paper from  Mythology Press)     design from the mage era, when a coup takes place. He manages to rescue the princess and his new apprentice, who had been a slave, and together with his female cousin who knows some magic, they head out of the kingdom up the mountains pretending to be a family. Eventually he learns the magic of the mages, as expected, but that takes a while. The rulers he encounters seem to be extraordinarily greedy but there is a magical reason. I really like the detail of the world and Teleo’s work ethic. Highly recommended.     
Heather Fawcett has a nineteenth century world in which fairies are quite real.  A Cambridge professor working on Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries (hard from Del Rey) travels to Ljosland in what today is Norway for a chapter on snow Fae. She thought she’d be alone with the local villagers who she has riled because of her rough edges, but a colleague, Wendell Bambleby, suddenly drops by. He is a tenured professor, but seemingly knows more about the fae than Emily who has studied them all her life. The problem with investigating the Fae is that it is easy to get drawn into their stories. Emily and Wendell have to deal with a changeling terrifying the poor parents of the missing boy, a king of snow trapped in a tree, and the cold and snow of the far north. Sequels are promised. I hope this finds it’s way to some award list. Amazing!
At Summer's End (paper from Baen) Dave Walker leaves Earth as assistant engineer on a tramp freighter Iowa Hill, running because his step father, who he never met, wants him dead. In John Van Stry’s future earth, has settled on three castes; drones who don’t work, proles who have to work, and elies who own everything. Dave’s mother had slummed with his father a Prole until the luxurious life of the elie called her back and her current husband want’s the black sheep of the family gone. His gang history on Earth gave him some skills to fight off assassins as the Iowa Hill goes from port to port in the solar system. Dave is a solid worker and within a year has moved up a grade and gotten several certification that would allow him to move to a better freighter when pirates, who weren’t really pirates capture him and the first mate, a woman terrified of being raped. That’s only the beginning. This is a fun tale taking place in a very settled future. I really enjoyed the tale and wouldn’t mind returning for a sequel.  
There are hidden portals on our world that let people traverse the harsh beyond to other worlds. In  Kate Elliott’s tale, it takes a group of The Keeper's Six (hard from Tordotcom), each with special powers, to be able to survive. Esther, and her hex, have been banned from the Beyond by the Concilium, but someone had kidnaped her son Daniel, a keeper.  So Esther gathers her group and heads into the harsh destructive desert lands to recover her son. This has wonderful  world building, and I would love to see further tales. Lots of fun and highly recommended.
Chad Hagan lives in a world, much like our own, where magic is tightly controlled by magical institutes While an apprentice, Chad learned he could pick up spells easily and pretends average magical ability while he volunteers to clean the master’s rooms, stealing access to their books. Then he runs away and survives several attempts on his life. The US government gets interested in an independent, and Forbidden (hard from Severn House) wizard that the institutes will stop at nothing to destroy.  Davis Bunn tells a fun tale of love and magic.
Glynn Stewart tells us of Captain Coral Amherst whose destroyer finds shelter from a horrible ice storm. Unfortunately she has to share the shelter with one of her country’s enemy’s ship from Stelforma. Coral is one of the magical Dalebloods with greater agility and ability to handle heat and cold far better than the seabloods, who two centuries before had come as refugees. The locals tell her that the storms have been increasing. The admirality of Daleland promotes Coral to Admiral and sends her flotilla, headed by her flagship Icebreaker (ebook from  Faolan's Pen Publishing ) to the abandoned city at the far north to stop the evil magic destroying her world and forcing a war between Daleland and Stelforma. It is there she finds the truth of her world and the journey she has to make to save it. Lots of fun. Why this is planned independent, I don’t know. I would love a sequel.
S.E. Anderson has a tale of Dora, an illegal clone of the princess, who was secreted away to prevent her being killed like the rest of the clones. She lives in the tiny agricultural colony of Nesworth on a small moon and was getting good at repairing the farming equipment and built her own small bot Tau, who floats around. Then a series of incidents cause her to find a ship that takes off, Over the Moon (ebook from Sea Breeze Books) to a world in the Outer Zone where she lands on the Technowitch of Night, rescuing the droids.  The good  Technowitch Gleia tells her to go to the Technomage’s moon to get help. Yes this is a high tech version of The Wizard of Oz. I really enjoyed how the Scarecrow, Cowardly lion, and Tin Man were introduced. Luckily the tale moves into its own thing long before a pail of water or flying monkey is introduced. Lots of fun.
Lois McMaster Bujold has a new novella about Penric and his demon Desdemona. In his world there exists a death ritual where someone can offer their life for the life of one they hate. If the white god grants the wish, two unoccupied bodies are left that unfortunately can be inhabited by ghosts, creating a Knot of Shadows (hard from Subterranean Press). One body has been washed from the sea, and has to be identified, and the other body found. The hardest problem is convinceing people thr moving corpses are dead. The usual fun.
Joshua Phillip Johnson completes his Tales of The Forever Sea (paper)dualogy that takes place in a world where ships sail above a huge, endless forest. After she started a massive fire, Kindred Greyreach reaches the floor in search of her missing grandmother. Her grandmother has horrible plans involving magical monsters to stop the surface dwellers from using their magic to hurt the forest. On the mainland, Flitch, fourth son of the Border Baron, has been given a magical book that might stop the magics that are hurting the forest, restore his family fortunes, and stop the King from taking his family land. Kindred has to master The Endless Song (hard from DAW) to save her world. This is a lyrical, magical work set in a magical world that was hard to get out of my head.
Jack McDevitt has a new mystery for his relic hunter in the far future, Alex Benedict. This time there is a Village in the Sky (hard from Gallery / Saga Press) discovered by an expedition looking for new world to settle. The alien village stands by itself on an empty planet. When a new expedition is sent, the village has somehow disappeared.  So Alex, his assistant Chase Kolpath and two others take their yacht on a months journey to hunt for concealed relics that might prove valuable. I always love this series, but this time the ending seems to come too abruptly. Fun.   
Simon R. Green’s Ishmael Jones is assigned to discover why a bureaucrat from the organization has disappeared. So he and Penny Belcourt go to Glenbury Hall, an old country manor house turned hotel – a mansion Haunted by the Past (hard from Baen). The victim, Lucas Carr, belonged to a society investing the nineteenth disappearance of Lord Ravensbrook. Soon there is an Agatha Christie type mystery about who or what was responsible. Fun.
    Baen has reprinted Michael Z. Williamson’s fun time travel sequel That Was Now, This Is Then, and Charles E. Gannon’s This Broken World fantasy in paper. They have a collection new stories  of Worlds Long Lost edited by Christopher Ruocchio and Sean CW Korsgaard in paper.
    Henry Lazarus is a retired Dentist and the author of A Cycle of Gods (Wolfsinger Publications) and Unnaturally Female (Smashwords).Check out his unified field theory at henrylazarus.com/utf.html that suggests fusion generation requires less energy.