Short works

Books : reviews

Liz Williams.
The Ghost Sister.
Bantam. 2001

Liz Williams.
Empire of Bones.
Tor. 2002

Liz Williams.
The Poison Master.
Tor. 2003

Liz Williams.
Nine Layers of Sky.
Tor. 2003

Liz Williams.
The Banquet of the Lords of Night and other stories.
Night Shade Books. 2004


Adventures in the Ghost Trade. 2000
Outremer. 1999
Skindancing. 2004
A Child of the Dead. 1997
The Sea of Time and Space. 2001
The Daykeeper. 2000
Dieudamour. 1998
Sharecropper. 2002
Nightside. 1999
Dog Years. 2000
Dancing Day. 2003
The Banquet of the Lords of Night. 2002
Loosestrife. 2004
Ancestors' Song. 2000
Orchidae. 2000
Quantum Anthropology. 2002
The Blood Thieves. 2000
The Man from the Ministry. 2003

Liz Williams.
A Glass of Shadow.
NewCon Press. 2011


Mr De Quincy and the Daughters of Madness. 2000
Mr Animation and the Wu Zhiang Zombies. 2001
Necrochip. 1999
The Flower of Tekheli. 2003
Tycho and the Stargazer. 2003
Indicating the Awakening of Persons Buried Alive. 2004
Voivodoi. 1998
On Windhover Down. 2004
Troytown. 2011
Woewater. 2002
Blackthorn and Nettles. 2005
The Water Cure. 2006
All Fish and Dracula. 2004
Who Pays. 2001
Ikiryoh. 2005
The Age of Ice. 2006
La Malcontenta. 2005
Dusking. 2009
A Glass of Shadow. 2011

Liz Williams.
Prime Books. 2012

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 8 September 2017

What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?

Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die—or to flourish and rise again.

Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. Now the city is being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from an unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but … things … keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends and escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such nightmarish creature—and so she turns to Shadow the alchemist for aid, with the fate of the library, and Worldsoul itself, hanging in the balance…

For Mercy Fane, the day starts as any other for a Worldsoul Librarian: choosing a weapon to fight the dangers escaping from the books. What emerges will involve not only her, but also a hidden descendent of old Norse legends, a demon from Hell itself, and an Alchemist from the Eastern quarter, in a desperate fight against those who would destroy Worldsoul.

There is a rich vein of fantasy that has heroic Librarians fighting against the dangers that can leak out of Old Books. I understand the desire for heroic librarians; I’m not so sure that having the books be the danger is the best idea in this age of anti-intellectual post-truth.

However, here we have another hero-Librarian fighting off the demons. Worldsoul is a beautifully drawn, rich and detailed world, with a complex plot drawing on a range of old-Earth mythologies. In a lesser author’s hands, the range of characters, locales, and mythologies might have resulted in fragmentation; here Williams draws them all together in a fine tapestry, with a powerful cumulative building of the plot details.

The plot itself comes to a conclusion, but the ending provides the potential for a sequel. There are hints on the web that such a sequel is “projected”, but it does not seem to exist yet. I would welcome another tale in this universe.

Liz Williams.
Snake Agent.
Night Shade Books. 2005

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 8 August 2009

Detective Inspector Chen, Singapore Three, is looked on askance by his colleagues, because he is a "Snake Agent", one who investigates preternatural crimes, and has dealing with the demons and other denizens of Hell. How much more would they distrust him if they knew his wife was a demon? He has already been disowned by his protector goddess, Kuan Yin, for this act. Then the wife of a prominent businessman comes to ask his help for the ghost of her dead daughter. His investigations lead him to a deadly conspiracy in the very depths of Hell.

This is an interestingly different fantasy detective story, making use of a relatively unknown mythology. It's new, intriguing, snappy, frightening, and complex, with a great protagonist and well-drawn supporting characters. The various plot strands are woven together well, gradually revealing the enormity of the conspiracy. Hell as an evil but inefficient bureaucracy is nicely drawn, and its parallels with the suffocatingly hot earthly locations are well made. The plot is rather driven by coincidences, but given the amount of supernatural meddling going on, that can probably be forgiven.

A fascinating new series.

Liz Williams.
The Demon and the City.
Night Shade Books. 2006

Liz Williams.
Precious Dragon.
Night Shade Books. 2006

Liz Williams.
The Shadow Pavilion.
Night Shade Books. 2009

Liz Williams.
The Iron Khan.
Open Road. 2010

Chen searches for a missing book that holds the fate of creation in its pages.

No mortal has ever heard of the Book, and few in Heaven even believe it is real. Instead, they regard the stories of a bound volume older than time itself as something of a creation myth. But Mhara, the Emperor of Heaven, knows the Book is very real, very powerful, and very much missing. It has a mind of its own, and it appears to have wandered off—taking the secrets of the universe with it.

To find it, Mhara calls Detective Inspector Chen, a supernatural sleuth with previous experience in saving the universe. Chen has a lot on his plate at the moment. His wife is pregnant, his demonic partner is tracking the movement of an immortal horde, and he hasn’t had a vacation in years. But for the sake of the Emperor, he’ll do his best to return order to the cosmos. If he doesn’t who will?

Liz Williams.
Tor. 2006

Liz Williams.
Tor. 2007

Liz Williams.
NewCon Press. 2018

Far across the sands of Mars, deep within the walls of a dead city, something stirs; an awakening that threatens to bring back a malice so ancient it is no longer remembered, except in darkest legend…

Winterstrike is at war and the target of deadly bombardment. Even so, the last thing Canteley expects is for her mother to send her away, and in the company of her formidable aunt at that. Aunt Sulie is a member of the ruling Matriarchy, who wrap secrets around them as thick as winter snowfall.

When Sulie takes her to the abandoned city of Tharsis, Cateley little imagines that the trip will unearth secrets long hidden and reveal the truth behind her own past. Recurring images of a blood red tower standing in the shadow of Olympus Mons have haunted her dreams. Now, at last, she discovers what they mean.

In Phosphorus, Liz Williams returns to the harsh Mars of her critically acclaimed novels Banner of Souls (shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award) and Winterstrike, delivering a tale laden with mystery and menace, as the Red Planet’s bloody past and troubled present collide.

Liz Williams.
Banner of Souls.
Tor. 2004

In the far distant future a flooded and shattered Earth is governed by the iron hand of the Martian Matriarchy. Martian warrior Dreams-of-War is despatched to Earth to protect an unusual young girl from an unknown threat. The clone of an extraordinary heritage, Lunae ages with unnatural speed and has the special talent of being able to alter time.

At the half-ruined city of Fragrant Harbour, where Lunae resides with her malignant grandmothers and a member of the genetically modified race known as the kappa, Dreams-of-War encounters a host of intrigues centring on the sinister presence of an alien mission station nearby. When her protégé is nearly assassinated, the Martian warrior is forced to flee with Lunae to the flooded northern islands of what was once Japan. But then the child goes missing en route, leaving Dreams-of-War determined to return to the plains of Mars in order to discover the truth about Martian rule over Earth, and the nature of all the secrets behind it…

Liz Williams.
Tor. 2008

Winterstrike spy Hestia Mar has been sent to Caud to recover details of an ancient weapon. During her stay in the Martian city, she encounters the ghost of a warrior, who is the encoded representation of the city’s bombed library. Hestia Mar manages to access the library’s data, but realizes too late what she has done: by downloading the information, she has virtually guaranteed the use of the weapon against Caud by her own government.

Meanwhile, in Winterstrike itself, Hestia’s cousin Shorn – imprisoned by her family for accidentally consorting with a male – manages to escape. Her sister Essegui, pursuing her to the dangerous mountains of Mars, discovers a plot by creatures who hold the secrets of the Martian past, and its future. While Essegui battles forces back in Winterstrike, Hestia travels to Earth in an attempt to save her city…