Ken Liu is one of the most exciting writers currently working in science fiction and fantasy, and The Wall of Storms (Saga Press, $29.99) may be his best novel. The sequel to last year’s The Grace of Kings, it is set in a world founded in Chinese history, but infused with elements from classic martial arts stories, the plays of Shakespeare, and epics such as The Iliad. Fans of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books may enjoy it for the strong character development, the politicking and tragic moments of violence. But The Wall of Storms has far more to offer than blood and angst. Student and teacher discuss the schools of philosophy, and whether there is any one answer to living an honest life; the wife of the emperor commits unthinkable acts to create a more just society; the gods themselves bicker and cheat and are remade even as the beliefs of the people are remade. You’ll meet Zomi and Thera, two young women from very different backgrounds who fight to save their people from unimaginable horror. And just when you think you have the story figured out, Liu stabs you in the back!
There are many candidates for The Trespasser (Viking, $27) in Tana French’s sixth Dublin Murder Squad mystery. The eponymous figure could be the murderer, committing a violent crime while leaving no evidence or indication of motive. It could be Detective Antoinette Conway herself, female and olive-skinned, working in the all-male, all-white Irish police squad. It could be an infiltrator feeding the investigators fake leads to deter them from finding the truth. The trespasser might even be Detective Conway’s realization that she has more in common with the blond-haired, Barbie doll-like victim than she is comfortable admitting. Not just a great detective story, French’s novel is a study in how the past superimposes itself on the present, and how memory steers personal perceptions and motives whether the actors are aware of it or not.
It’s 1945, and though World War II is still under way, Cenzo Vianello has put away his life as a soldier and is now a small town fisherman living a small life. One day he finds a woman in the water; by some miracle she’s still alive, and he pulls her to safety. Guilia, The Girl From Venice (Simon & Schuster, $27), in Martin Cruz Smith’s fifteenth novel, is wanted by the Wehrmacht SS. As Cenzo assumes the role of her protector, his life becomes as suspenseful as the momentous final days of the war itself. In trying to save this one life, Cenzo finds himself suddenly engaged in a world he’s tried to steer clear of, one rife with Nazi sympathizers, Partisans, forgers, killers, actors, and spies. It also brings him back into contact with his despised brother Giorgio, now a tool of Mussolini’s propaganda machine. If the Wehrmacht and the tides have brought Cenzo and Guilia together, perhaps love and family can keep them from being captured and killed before peace is declared.