Dead Man’s Hand

by James J. Butcher

In a modern world where witches and non-witches live together, a washed-up witch hunter’s old partner is killed for a magical artifact. Based on her last words, the Hunstman finds Grimsby, a witch who washed out of the Department’s training program and now works at a Chuck-E-Cheese ripoff restaurant entertaining awful children. Together they go searching for the killer and the artifact—and Grimsby’s spine.

Good read. It didn’t suck me in, though. I’m not sure if the story was lacking something, or if hard-boiled detective fantasy just doesn’t do it for me any more. But this is the first book in a series and I’ll probably pick up the next one at some point to see where the story goes.

For what it’s worth, the author is the son of Jim Butcher, who writes The Dresden Chronicles, and this book is a chip off the old block.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

by Olga Tokarczuk

Lovely book. I mean, it won the Nobel prize for literature. You don’t need me to tell you it’s good. But it is. And it’s not good the way some literature is good, meaning thick and dense and hard to read. It’s good the way good stories are good.

I think maybe the most magical thing about the book is the way the field of view starts small—just two characters and a corpse in a frozen winter village—and grows steadily as the book progresses, taking on scenery, characters, relationships, and more.

It’s also a unique take on murder mystery. I didn’t read the jacket so I didn’t even realize I was reading a murder mystery until two thirds of the way through the book. Not that I minded.

Anyway it’s really good and you should read it.

The Pale Blue Eye

by Louis Bayard

Sometimes when reading a book I get so delighted with it that I find myself giggling and have to tell a friend. This is such a book.

Imagine if Sherlock Holmes were a crotchety middle-aged bachelor living near West Point soon after the Civil War, and Watson were Edgar Allen Poe while he was attending the academy. And both the style of the book and the murder under investigation bear the hallmarks of Poe’s later fiction. Does that sound odd? Well, it is, and it makes for a delightful murder mystery—with a twist or two before the end.

The Language of Power

by Rosemary Kirstein

Rowan follows a slim clue to track down the wizard who threatens the world. She travels to the South where she learns the true nature of wizards and dragons.

This cannot be the last book in the series because it does not conclude the story. But this book was published in 2014 and there is not yet a fifth book. Rosemary Kirstein’s blog is active and she says she is still working on The Steerswoman series. So hopefully we’ll get more soon!

The Lost Steersman

by Rosemary Kirstein

The search for the wizard who destroyed a Guidestar and threatens the world takes Rowan off the map of the known world. There, the full extent of the mystery surrounding Kirstein’s world will begin to make sense.

This was probably my least favorite book, if only because the “demons” felt a bit too weird-for-the-sake-of-weird. Very Golden Age Sci-Fi, which isn’t itself a bad thing but feels kind of out of place in this book.

But I mean, keep going! The adventure continues (for one more book).

The Steerswoman

by Rosemary Kirstein

I picked up this book after a random encounter soon after I joined Mastodon, and I’m so glad I did.

Steerswomen must answer any question they are asked—and if they ask a question it must be answered truthfully or no steerswoman will ever answer you again. Steerswomen gather information about the world and share it freely. Only the wizards refuse to answer their questions. But one Steerswoman starts investigating a strange object, and as a result someone tries to murder her—twice.

Before long it becomes clear that the world itself is a mystery to be unraveled.

This was a great read, and one of my favorite books/series I picked up this year.


by Carrie Vaughn

A post-apocalyptic murder mystery. Decades after economic and environmental collapse, a string of modest communities on the West Coast are committed to sustainability and avoiding the mistakes of the past. Only those households that have demonstrated their value to the community earn a banner—the right to have a child. This book considers what crime and punishment would look like in such a setting.

Vaughn’s optimistic take on post-apocalyptic storytelling sucked me right in. I loved Enid the Investigator and thinking about what justice would have to look like in such a setting. One of the better books I read this year.