The Lampworks Lamplighter
SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
In this issue
- Buying locally
- A board game review
- Send us feedback!
- Reviews of Quillifer the Knight, The Encircling Sea, The Hollowing, and How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with it
- Some featured promotions to help you find new authors to follow
Well, sort of. Readers decide to buy a book on Amazon based on the cover, the description, and the reviews. The first two are all up to us, but you can help with the reviews. If we’ve brought you memorable characters, clever plots, satisfying stories, and maybe a chuckle or two, let others know by leaving us a review. Every recommendation makes a difference.
Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Starting with this issue, we’re providing a Bookshop link for all books that have print copies. Wherever you see the logo, click to buy the paperback book from an independent bookstore near you. (And, as always, click on the book cover to visit the Amazon Kindle page.) You can find all of our recommendations this month on our Bookshop Store.
Escape the Dark Sector
In these days of spending remarkable amounts of time at home, board games can be a fun diversion, so here’s a mini-review for a quick-playing mini-adventure game!
Trapped on an alien space station, you and your companions are imprisoned in a detention block and your ship has been impounded (and why is this you might ask? Don’t ask. It’s not important.) You must escape, running through the corridors of the space station, taking advantage of every opportunity to better equip yourselves, defend yourselves, or make the best of a situation. Some people you meet will be quick to offer assistance. Others will be just as quick to draw a blaster or report you to the authorities. If you overcome the dangers, traps, monsters, cyborgs and other nasties, and (literally) play your cards right, you just might survive the trip to the launching bay. Where the boss monster and final battle awaits!
Escape the Dark Sector is a cooperative adventure game where 1-4 players work together as a team. Story cards are revealed one-by-one through three different story “acts”, and the team needs to decide together how to handle each situation. Each crew member adds something unique to the team’s collective abilities, ranging from combat skills to problem-solving. The rules are short and straightforward, setup takes about 2 minutes, and gameplay lasts about 45 minutes. This is an evocative, quick-playing, entry-level roleplaying game that can also be played as a solo experience with one player controlling 2 characters.
Oh, dearie me. In all my years as an Astromancer I haven’t seen such a one as this. The young man thought he was being clever, not giving his real name when he climbed the hill to my door. Hah! I had already seen him coming, a man with a such a cloud of names he may not even know which one is his. I have set influences upon his stars to guide him as he searches for his impossible bridge. Even now, as he descends the hill, I’ve nudged a star close to his and guided some paws to cross his path. He’ll need a friend.
And now that is the last visitor that has been foretold. I know what that means, and I must be ready.
The sky ship drew a sword across the night, as blue as chance.
Chance is a complex skinword. The shape of a cloud on the horizon, striated and lit from below. Shaded towards red, it means a threat. Towards yellow it means a difficulty to be surmounted. In that clear blue, it means the unknown and uncontrolled, that which might break in your favor or against it. It could also be translated into human language as opportunity.
Now the passenger from the sky ship sits at my table at the Inn, telling me he doesn’t need my protection to reach Misthaven. He is a magnet for trouble, this I can foretell. Chance and opportunity take the form of a lost archaeologist today. Ah, Polnedra protect us, he has already attracted a Morghaest…
What we’re reading
Quillifer the Knight
— Walter Jon Williams
Rogue, womanizer, son of butcher, and now knight of the realm. Quillifer carves himself a life in the court of the queen that he helped to the throne, and holds it against those who were born to the court and resent his intrusion. Quillifer will take on any challenge, but never in the way his opponents expect, preferring to win by wit rather than force. But will that work against his worst enemy, the goddess he offended who has sworn his ruin? As Quillifer says, “I feel that one should have perfect command of the rule book before throwing it away. That should itself be a rule.”
How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It
— K. J. Parker
In the sequel to “Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City,” it is five years later and the City is still under siege. It has become a way of life, even the subject of plays. One night Notker, an actor and avowedly NOT a playwright, is drafted to play the part of the ruler of the City, who is most inconveniently dead. Once he takes up the part, he finds it hard to let go.
Notker is the ultimate unreliable narrator. He tells lies for a living. He’s a disappointment to his mother (“She wanted me to be a murderer and an extortionist, like my father.”) And he knows the power of narrative (“Rumour is the ultimate oyster, building layer upon layer of glittering shiny stuff round a tiny speck of fact.”) In the end, he gets so wound up in giving everyone what they want, he almost forgets what he wants. Almost.
The Encircling Sea
— Adrian Goldsworthy
Flavius Ferox, a British tribesman and Roman centurion is back in book 2 of the Vindolanda series about ancient Britain during the time of Emperor Trajan. Hibernian kings visit hoping to gain favor from the Romans, while reports suggest that supernatural cannibalistic creatures are raiding along the coast. Ever the questioning sort, Flavius has suspicions that all is not as it appears. When those dear to him are kidnapped and he must go to Hibernia (Ireland) to rescue them, pieces begin to fall into place. As with book 1, The Encircling Sea accurately depicts situations and warfare of the first century AD, and includes significant amounts of violence and gore.
— Robert Holdstock
Book 3 of the Mythago Wood Cycle travels further into the seemingly small yet impossibly vast haunted woodland of Ryhope, where space and time turn back on themselves and dreams (and nightmares) become reality. This time a young boy loses himself in the forest and is believed dead. Years later his father learns that his son may still live, preserved as a young child in the strange timeline of the wood. With the help of explorers studying the wood, he mounts a search for him. But the boy’s own powerful imagination has conjured sinister “mythagos” to protect him.
You may also enjoy…
The Clockwork Detective
— R. A. McCandless
Aubrey Hartmann left the Imperial battlefields with a pocketful of medals, a fearsome reputation, and a clockwork leg. The Imperium diverts her trip home to investigate the murder of a young druwyd in a strange town. She is ordered to not only find the killer but prevent a full-scale war with the dreaded Fae.
— James Murdo
Siouca is a member of the advanced Wanderer civilisation. What does Siouca want?
The quest to unlock the secrets of interstellar travel leads a Roranian crew on an epic journey across space. Saved by a dying machine-lect, stranded in a failing ship, faced with an ultimate choice. Were they too eager in their attempts to reach the stars?
Turning the Hourglass
— M.J. Keeley
Historian Dyrne Samson doesn’t want to read about the past anymore. Now he visits it.
Abandoning University lecturing, he joins a classified research organisation, hidden beneath the streets of New London. Their time-distortion pods let him witness crucial moments throughout history. But when observing the past, Dyrne discovers that he can also change it. Of course, visiting events from his own life is forbidden – the only reason he can’t return to the day he’ll never forget… unless he can manipulate the rules.
The Last Everything
— Frank Kennedy
Jamie Sheridan’s very bad night worsens no matter how fast the 17-year-old runs. In the next eight hours, he will become a god or a monster – or he will die.