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SCI-FI

THE STARS UNDYING by Emery Robin (Orbit £8.99, 544 pp)

THE STARS UNDYING 

by Emery Robin (Orbit £8.99, 544 pp)

Here, a venerable planetary kingdom, living on past glories but still revered for its spirituality. There, a rising military space empire, bristling with martial vigour. Leading the former, a queen of quite exceptional beauty, brains and tricksiness: leading the latter, a ruthless, charismatic general. In short, it’s Egypt and Rome, Cleopatra and Julius Caesar in space … and so much more.

This is a magnificent debut and a masterpiece of world-building, with the new narrative draping the contours of the old story like a gorgeously worked tapestry. Favouring politics over space battles, it’s intricately detailed and for all the interstellar politics, emotionally grounded. If you start off identifying characters from history lessons, you’ll end up believing in them.

HEART OF THE SUN WARRIOR by Sue Lynn Tan (Harper Voyager £16.99, 480 pp)

HEART OF THE SUN WARRIOR 

by Sue Lynn Tan (Harper Voyager £16.99, 480 pp)

Chinese fantasy brings us a fresh hierarchy of gods, a whole new arsenal of weapons and a beguiling library of myths and legends to draw on. In this sequel to the bestselling Daughter Of The Moon Goddess, Xingyin is now in the celestial realm with her mother and two competing suitors.

But life up in the heavens is anything but divine. The Celestial Emperor and Empress are less than happy with their son’s interest in Xingyin, while Wugang, the new imperial adviser, has many an axe to grind.

With magic elixirs, jade bows and cloud transport, Sue Lynn Tan brings to life a new fantasy realm with tight plotting, vivid detail and bright shafts of celestial charm.

by Christina Henry, edited by Lindy Ryan (Black Spot Books £14.99, 300 pp)

Baba Yaga is having a moment. This Slavic witch flies around in a giant pestle and mortar and inhabits a house that stands on chicken legs behind a hedge of human bones. In short, she’s a nightmare on steroids and here takes centre stage in a new compendium by 23 women writers of horror.

Interpretations vary with delicious wildness. Baba Yaga can be sensual and tempting as she seduces an unhappy princess, or larky and snarky as she bakes a fat boy in her oven. But what links the stories is a folkloric power located on the outer edge of our consciousness, yet which seems to burrow right into the centre of our souls.

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