Each week, our crack staff shares their current reading choices…

I’ve been trying to read Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman for a while now. A friend loaned it to me because she and I share an interest in geology and geography. Fortunately, we also share an interest in honesty, and she warned me that the characters were hard to love.

I’ve read a third of the book, and I’m finding it tough to keep going. The magic power premise – that Jessica Drake can dream of alternate realities and turn them into artwork (and supposedly walk through them) – is pretty neat. The parallel-universe Luray Caverns echoes with evil in the dank depths. However, I have no positive connection to the characters or to the daylight world. Jesse’s voice is inconsistent, her brother is annoying, and the supporting characters are two-dimensional.

I’m a moderate fan of YA fantasy, and I’m willing to forgo emotional depth in return for resonant characterization and/or nifty world building. So far, I haven’t seen enough of the niftiness and the characters are annoying me out of any sympathy. At this point, it’s 50/50 that I’ll finish the book. And that’s a pity, because the evil caverns are calling to me. Thankfully, there are other highly-reputable Friedman books on the shelves if ever I want to try this author again.

Colleen Reed, Contributing Writer

Dreamwalker (Dreamwalker #1) by C. S. Friedman
YA Fantasy | DAW | 2016

I just this very minute finished The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason, a book I bought about three hours ago. So, yes, a fast read, and one I simply couldn’t delay finishing once I had begun it. You know when you start a book, thinking you might squeeze in a chapter or two in between chores, just giving yourself a little downtime in a busy, deadline-filled life? Unwisely, I chose to begin this novel in just such a decadent mood, and before I knew it I was sailing through the story of Kayla, an exiled space princess impersonating yet another space princess in order to win the hand of the Emperor’s son (and falling for the Emperor’s best-friend, of course), and fighting for her life. No, wait, that makes this book sound like some YA extravagance, and it is not. Oh, sure, the novel invites comparison to The Hunger Games and Throne of Glass, along with more than one other space opera — the Liaden Universe! Miles Vorkosigan! There are even shades of the Honorverse — but it is its own story, its own well-plotted galaxy and our protagonists are even grown ups.

The book ends on a cliffhanger and makes me very grateful that the second one is out TODAY. I do fear the wait for the third book is going to be frustrating, and that I am going to wish I had discovered this trilogy — and of course it is a trilogy — after it was complete. Here’s hoping the conclusion will be worth the wait; I honestly can’t remember the last time I had so much effortless fun in space.

Rachel Hyland, Editor-in-Chief

The Empress Game (Empress Game #1) by Rhonda Mason
Space Opera | Titan | 2015

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