(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
As I promised last week, today I am reviewing another two novellas published by Tor.com: A Song for No Man's Land, by Andy Remic, and The Devil You Know, by K.J. Parker. What is more, I have the additional pleasure of collaborating with my very good friend Leticia Lara, from Fantástica Ficción, who is simultaneously publishing a review of Parker's novella.
I didn't know what to expect exactly from A Song No Man's Land. I hadn't read anything by Andy Remic and I wasn't completely convinced by the synopsis. However, I must say that I was very, very pleasantly surprised. From the first page, the author does an excellent job of evoking the desperate atmosphere of a country at war:
Distant machine guns roared, like some great alien creature in agony. Rain lashed from unhealthy iron skies, caressed the upturned faces of soldiers praying to a god they no longer believed in for a miracle that couldn't happen.
Then, very subtly, Remic introduces the supernatural element and mixes it seamlessly with the rest of the story using flashbacks and dreamlike scenes. I usually don't care for that kind of story, but in this case I loved every sentence of it: believable characters, excellent prose, perfect world-building and an interesting plot with a good ending. Highly recommend it and I am already looking forward to the second installment, Return of Souls, that will come out in June.
The Devil You Know, by K.J. Parker is even better, and that is a lot to say. This novella is a perfect complement (and sort of a counterpoint) to the also very good Downfall of the Gods, that Antonio Díaz reviewed for us last week. If in that other story the main protagonists were a goddess and a mortal, here the main focus is in the pact of the philosopher Saloninus, one of the most intelligent persons ever, with a demon. But when Saloninus is involved you can be sure that this will be not your run-of-the-mill pact with the devil.
Parker delivers, once again, a witty, intelligent and cynical novella, with excellent dialog and an almost perfect pace. With an intriguing and always twisting plot, it is impossible not to love the cunning Saloninus and feel a bit sorry for the poor demon that is at his service. The best novella of the year so far and one that you should not miss.
All in all, two very different but excellent additions to Tor.com's amazing novella imprint. I enjoyed both of them immensely and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in fantasy literature. And very soon I will be reviewing even more novellas so... stay tuned!