Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth by Simon R. Green
So. The apocalypse comes to the Nightside, and the four horsemen are too scared to show up. At long last, John Taylor’s mother is back, and she intends to reclaim her property. John has reason to believe that if he fights her, he will not only lose, but he will destroy the entire world while he is at it. But can he stop her without fighting? Will his friends stand by him while he tries? Will his enemies stop trying to kill him long enough to save everyone? Will there be a seventh Nightside novel, or is the first quarterly dark/urban fantasy series finally at an end?
A Secret Atlas: book one of the Age of Discovery by Micheal A. Stackpole
In this book, Stackpole goes in a very different direction from anything I’ve seen him do before: he creates a world not equivalent to medieval Europe, but rather based on China. The Empire was shattered some centuries ago, when the last Emperess took her armies out to the wastelands of the north to fight a cataclysmic battle with a horde of nomads. In the aftermath of the battle, a long period of wild magic made life harsher.
Now, what was the Empire is several kingdoms, all fueding in minor ways. One has been conquered by a neighbour and the resistance is living in the kingdom of Nalenyr, from which most of our heroes come. The central characters are members of the family Anturasi, who are the kingdom’s main geographers. The head of the family, Qiro, lives in the family tower and makes maps, too valuable to the Prince to be allowed to leave for any reason. His grandsons, Keles and Jorim, explore and telepathically send him back information for his maps. His granddaughter, Nirati, the only one he really loves, is desperately seeking her own talents and her place in the world.
After being accidentally injured at his grandfather’s birthday party, Keles is sent north to map the wastes and see if the silk road to the west can be reopened. His companions include an immortal swordsman and his student. Jorim, in turn, is sent east, on a giant fleet of ships (based on those that the Chinese actually used, and which were the basis for 1421: the year China discovered the world). Halfway across the world he discovers something totally unexpected (well, to him. We probably expect it).
Overall the book is good, but towards the end something truly vile happens, something that changes the book and threatens everything. I trust Stackpole to make good of it, but . . . I’m not sure that I’ll actually be able to reread the book again. This scene might be triggering for those who are sensitive to sexual violence.