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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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…