Here is a confession: I never heard of Night Shade Books until Ross Lockhart direct tweeted me one day. "We're going to be publishing The Emperor's Knife in the states," he wrote, not imagining how long I'd waited for those eleven words to appear.
Thrilled but anxious, I typed 'Night Shade Books' into the search bar and was blinded by names: Neal Asher, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kage Baker, Iain Banks, Glen Cook. I saw Elizabeth Bear, whom I remembered from the OWW as clever and original. And those were just the first two pages of the catalog. I felt a bit outclassed, but I was willing to pretend I belonged.
Ross offered free books. When I explained that I hadn't been able to get through the catalog (whether it was excitement, or the growing sense of inferiority that stopped me, I don't know), he made an editorial decision and packed a box. Within a week, it arrived.
The Windup Girl and Southern Gods disappeared immediately into the hands of my teenage children, but that was all right. They weren't at the top of my TBR pile. I got started on Miserere by Teresa Frohock. A story of redemption placed in an original world with a great magic system (I still keep thinking about the rosa--read it and you'll know what I mean), it left me satisfied. As a tabletop gamer, I want to steal some of her magic ideas for my Friday nights, but I keep forgetting to ask her.
Next I read The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu. This combines a political story of colonization and rebellion with a magical one. The characters must constantly examine their loyalties and beliefs, along with their own actions in light of them. I found it very effective.
Whitefire Crossing was something I had been looking forward to. A mountain-climbing smuggler must sneak the hardest thing possible across a border: a mage, into a land where such mages are banned. Worse, he does not trust this mage. It was fun and exciting and made it easy to accept that Republic of Thieves won't be out until next year. People talk a lot about the mountain climbing in this book, but it was the characters that stood out for me.
Last but not least came The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells. To be honest I wasn't sure about this one going in. I don't usually care for books that aren't about humans--I figure humans are interesting and complex enough. But I was wrong. Cloud Roads was fantastic. Moon, a young, flying shapeshifter, makes his way in the world among the 'groundlings,' because he doesn't know where he belongs. One day he is swooped up and everything changes. This book is about coming of age and self acceptance and a lot of things I don't want to type in, in case they're spoilers.
Night Shade Books seems to be the kind of place where unusual stories happen. I couldn't be prouder to be part of the NSB Posse. I can only hope that I hold up my end of the deal and make stories as intriguing as all these others.
In short, BUY THESE BOOKS!
Next to read: Dancing with Bears.