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12Feb

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup

The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon; Bear Head by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Purgatory Mount by Adam Roberts; The Swimmers by Marian Womack; and Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Beginning in 2013 with The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon’s fantasy series has attracted a large readership and much-deserved praise. In a field thick with medieval despots and fairytale atmosphere, it stands out for its uniquely different and complex setting. The Mask Falling (Bloomsbury, £16.99) is the fourth instalment, returning us to the near-future alternative reality that split from our own in 1859, after the veil between worlds was breached. This led to human contact with the immortal inhabitants of the Netherworld, and subsequently the overthrow of the British monarchy and the establishment of the brutal Scion regime, dedicated to the persecution of “unnaturals” (anyone with a psychic gift or interest in spiritual matters – even fantasy fiction is outlawed). The characters are believable, as are the compromises they make to stay alive under a fascistic government. This new book takes the much-abused heroine Paige Mahoney out of Britain in search of potential new allies in Paris, where the narrative exerts the same vice-like grip as before, with danger, deception, hair’s-breadth escapes and new revelations coming thick and fast.

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