Review: Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Review: Shadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose ClarkeShadows Have Offended by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: media tie-in, science fiction
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Pages: 304
Published by Pocket Books on July 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

An original novel based on the acclaimed Star Trek TV series!
The USS Enterprise has been granted the simple but unavoidable honor of ferrying key guests to Betazed for a cultural ceremony. En route, sudden tragedy strikes a Federation science station on the isolated planet Kota, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard has no qualms sending William Riker, Data, and Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher to investigate. But what begins as routine assignments for the two parties soon descends into chaos: Picard, Worf, and Deanna Troi must grapple with a dangerous diplomatic crisis as historic artifacts are stolen in the middle of a high-profile ceremony…while nothing is as it seems on Kota. A mounting medical emergency coupled with the science station’s failing technology—and no hope of rescue—has Doctor Crusher racing against time to solve a disturbing mystery threatening the lives of all her colleagues….

My Review:

This caught my eye for a number of reasons. I was more than a bit surprised to see it pop up on Edelweiss, because the Star Trek media tie-in books in general don’t make many appearances on either Edelweiss or NetGalley. After all, the audience for them is built in, to the point where reviews probably don’t make much difference.

But it kept calling my name because it filled a bunch of niches in my reading brain. I was looking for something SFnal after the excellence of A Psalm for the Wild-Built and Project Hail Mary last week. I’m still in the mood for competence porn, and Trek fiction at its best has always scratched that particular itch. The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, whether or not there’s a “bloody A, B, C or D” or even E in the name, have always been the best of the best.

This is a world I could sink into from the very first page. I’ve known this place and these people for a long, long time, after all. And the title was intriguing because there’s a long history of Trek borrowing from Shakespeare, going all the way back to the 9th episode of the 1st season of the Original Series, whose title, “Dagger of the Mind” comes straight out of Macbeth.

So the copy of The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works that Jean-Luc Picard keeps in his quarters, or the still ironic reference to not having “experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon” are far from the first times that the Bard has been referenced in Trek.

The 1960s assumption that if Shakespeare was still being performed and read 350 years after his death that he would still be considered a classic another 350 years in the future – when the Original Series was set – still seems like a good bet.

All of the above is a long way of saying that I got trapped into this story for the title, which is, as you might have already guessed or remembered, a quote from Shakespeare, specifically from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended…” I found myself wondering what the quote, or the context of the original play, might have to do with this particular story. So here we are. And that, I think, relates to another Shakespeare quote, this one from The Tempest.  “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

And doesn’t that require a bit more explanation?

Very much like one of the episodes of any and all of the Trek series, there’s an A plot and a B plot in Shadows Have Offended. Sometimes they did plot and subplot, but I’m not sure that either plot here is subordinate to the other.

The A plot follows Picard at a diplomatic function on Betazed. Picard may be an excellent diplomat, but the pomp and ceremony that is a huge part of the Betazed culture leaves him totally cold – although the Betazed Ambassador Lwaxana Troi does her best to warm him up by embarrassment as she’s been completely unsuccessful at every other method she’s tries – and she’s tried them ALL.

Lwaxana ropes Picard into participating in the ceremony, while she gets to watch her daughter, the Enterprise’ ship’s counselor Deanna Troi, while she attempts to figure out if Deanna and Worf are in a relationship or not.

But the ceremony goes haywire when the cultural artifacts that are scheduled to be displayed are stolen, leaving Picard on Betazed attempting to calm the agitated diplomatic horde while the Enterprise goes off to catch the rather surprising thief.

The B plot is where the title quote comes into play. On the way to Betazed, the Enterprise dropped Commander Riker, Doctor Crusher, Data and a couple of scientifically inclined junior officers on a planet that is being evaluated for a new colony. Glitches have arisen at the last stage of the evaluation so the scientists on station have requested more hands on their rather sandy deck to see if they can resolve the remaining issues and sign off on the colonization effort.

Picard’s part of the story feels lighthearted throughout. Not that the stolen cultural artifacts are not important, not that the diplomatic mission he’s been roped into isn’t necessary, but no one – except possibly the thief – is going to die on this unexpected mission. There will be a lot of hot tempers, there’s a lot of potential political fallout but the stakes always feel a bit small – at least relative to Riker and Crusher’s mission.

Because the colony that needs to be signed off on is for a large group of refugees whose planet has been wiped out. They have no home and need one rather desperately. But the glitches aren’t just minor glitches, and the more the newly expanded group looks into them, the more desperate things get.

Either the planet is trying to communicate with them, or the planet is trying to kill them. And it might succeed at the latter if someone doesn’t figure out the former before their shelter is destroyed, and their equipment, including the food replicators and communications, have ceased to function. There are no ships currently available to rescue them, so they are on their own with a dwindling supply of food and a group of people who keep passing out and screaming. Including the android Data.

It’s up to Crusher to figure out what is making both the people and the equipment “sick” before it makes them all dead. And that’s where the Shakespearean references become all too relevant.

Escape Rating B: It’s difficult to review this, not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I’m part of its built-in audience. It doesn’t reach beyond those of us who love Trek and want to dip back into it again. In that, it succeeds admirably as it feels like reading an episode. The entire thing painted itself in my brain without a single hitch. If that’s what you’re looking for, and I kind of was, it does its job very well. If you’re looking for more general SF, I highly recommend Project Hail Mary, which is sort of how I got here in the first place!

Review: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox

Review: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg CoxThe Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: The Librarians #2
Pages: 288
on April 25th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

For millennia, the Librarians have secretly protected the world by keeping watch over dangerous magical relics. Cataloging and safeguarding everything from Excalibur to Pandora’s Box, they stand between humanity and those who would use the relics for evil.
Stories can be powerful. In 1719, Elizabeth Goose of Boston Massachusetts published a collection of rhyming spells as a children's book, creating a spellbook of terrifying power. The Librarian of that age managed to dispose of all copies of the book except one, which remained in the possession of Elizabeth Goose and her family, temporarily averting any potential disaster.
However, strange things are happening, A window washer in San Diego who was blown off his elevated perch by a freak gust of wind, but miraculously survived by landing on a canopy over the building entrance. A woman in rural Pennsylvania who was attacked by mutant rodents without any eyes. And, a college professor in England who somehow found herself trapped inside a prize pumpkin at a local farmer’s market. Baird and her team of Librarians suspect that the magic of Mother Goose is again loose in the world, and with Fynn Carson AWOL once again, it is up to Cassandra, Ezekiel, and Stone to track down the missing spellbook before the true power of the rhymes can be unleashed.

My Review:

I read The Librarians and the Lost Lamp a couple of weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it because it felt so much like an episode of the show, including all of the madcap adventure and especially all of the banter. I had a great time, just as I do when I watch The Librarians. It was fun!

But The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase felt like it was more of a strain. The Librarians, of course, are always a bit strained in the midst of yet another hair-raising case, but there was something about this one that made it feel like a strain for the reader, too. Or at least this reader.

Fair warning, I may get a bit meta here. It’s hard to review a media tie-in novel without some references to the media it ties into, and how it “feels” related to how the original feels, And works. I would say or doesn’t work but the fact is that a person for whom the original does not work is unlikely to read novels based on it. My 2 cents.

Part of what makes The Librarians work as a show is their marvelous team dynamic. The Librarians and their Guardian are a close knit team and also kind of a family. What they do is designed to be a bit outside the mundane world, and they of necessity have bonded together. Along with Jenkins, the combination archivist, caretaker and zookeeper of the Library and the Library Annex in Portland they work out of.

On the one hand, parts of this story provide a marvelous and much broader view of just how big, how strange, and how magical the Library’s collections truly are. Nobody wants the job of cleaning the pen that holds the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs, but it’s a dirty job and somebody has to do it. Usually Jenkins.

On that other hand, the Librarians spend a lot of this story on separate parts of the quest. This group is stronger when it’s together. It’s also funnier and occasionally more heartwarming when it’s together. So for this reader story lost some of its steam when it separated the group, Also the way they were split up felt a bit contrived. Their separate quests seem to rely on their weaknesses more than their strength, and the individuals they were paired up with instead felt like contrivances designed to teach them each something rather than get the job done. As usual, my 2 cents and your mileage may vary.

And the action got a bit bogged down as it split into four separate stories, which at times felt a bit repetitious.

The concept that Mother Goose was not only real but a powerful witch who encoded her spells into nursery rhymes fits right into the mythos of the Library. That her magic could get out of hand if left in the hands of the “wrong people” could make an episode or a great story.

But the way that this one wrapped up, which unfortunately I did see coming a mile away, fell flat. Again, at least for this reader.

So, as much as I love The Librarians, I didn’t have nearly as much fun with Mother Goose as I did with the Lost Lamp.

Escape Rating C+: The scenes where Eve and Jenkins are chasing several of the Library’s more colorful (and volatile) exhibits around the Library are hilarious. My personal favorite is when Jenkins throws Arthur’s Crown at the Sword Excalibur and tells it to play “Keep Away” with the King of Beasts and the Unicorn. Eve’s solution to the problem of the Dead Man’s Chest was also lot of fun. But the gang spends too much time not being a gang, and I missed the way they play off of each other much too much.

Review: The Librarians and the Lost Lamp by Greg Cox

Review: The Librarians and the Lost Lamp by Greg CoxThe Librarians and The Lost Lamp (The Librarians #1) by Greg Cox
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: The Librarians #1
Pages: 286
Published by Tor Books on October 11th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

The Librarians is one of the biggest new hits on cable. Spinning off from a popular series of TV-movies, the TNT series begins its second season this Fall. The Librarians and the Lost Lamp is the first in a series of thrilling all-new adventures that will delight fans of the TV series and movies.
For thousands of years, the Librarians have secretly protected the world The Librarians from dangerous magical relics and knowledge, including everything from Pandora’s Box to King Arthur’s sword.
Ten years ago, Flynn Carson was the only living Librarian. When the ancient criminal organization known as the Forty steals the oldest known copy of The Arabian Nights by Scheherazade, Flynn is called in to investigate. Fearing that the Forty is after Aladdin's fabled Lamp, Flynn must race to find it before the Lamp's powerful and malevolent djinn is unleashed upon the world.
Today, a new team of inexperienced Librarians, along with Eve Baird, their tough-as-nails Guardian, is investigating an uncanny mystery in Las Vegas when the quest for the Lamp begins anew . . . and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

My Review:

Because this is the start of National Library Week, I was looking for at least one book this week with some kind of library theme. When the much more serious book I originally planned on turned out to be a little too serious, I went for the much more fun option.

The Librarians, the TV series, is always fun. And after having watched it, I’ll admit that it gives saying, “I’m the Librarian” just a bit more of kick whenever I introduce myself in certain work situations.

But being an ordinary librarian isn’t near as much of a thrill as being one of THE Librarians, and that’s probably a good thing.

Our more adventurous, and fictional, counterparts are having a much more dangerous time than we are. Not that most of us don’t secretly envy them in one way or another. The seemingly unlimited resources, if nothing else.

The Librarians in this series work for a presumably mythical Library whose mission is to keep the rest of us from finding out that magic really exists, and that all too many of the legends and fables that we believe are purely fiction are in fact based in fact – and fairly dangerous fact at that.

In this particular case, the legend that is being turned on its head is the legend of Aladdin’s lamp, and the genie contained therein, as well as the legend of Scheherazade and the 1,001 Arabian Nights, along with a very specific story among those 1,001 nights, that of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

In the world of the Librarians, nothing is ever quite as it seems. And no great magic ever comes without an equally great price. It’s the paying of that price that the Library attempts to prevent, usually by locking up the magical artifact involved.

The story in The Librarians and the Lost Lamp switches between two different occasions when the Library (and those Forty Thieves) went after the lamp and the djinn imprisoned within, with rather tumultuous results.

In 2006, when Flynn Carsen was the solo librarian, and before the catastrophic events of 2014 that caused the Library to recruit three additional Librarians and their Guardian, a researcher in Baghdad discovered the earliest known copy of the 1,001 Nights. Both the Library and the Forty Thieves criminal organization hoped that the manuscript contained clues to the location of Aladdin’s lost lamp and its djinn. The Library wanted the lamp locked up for everyone’s safety, and the Forty wanted the djinn to grant their wish for power and wealth. The djinn, of course, had a somewhat different agenda.

No one came out of that particular encounter with exactly what they wanted. So in 2016, when the lamp resurfaces, both the Library and the Forty chase after it again, with even messier results than the last time.

In 2006, the lamp was in the middle of an empty desert. In 2016, it turns up in Las Vegas. The chaos that ensues is absolutely epic, and a complete blast of fun and adventure from beginning to end.

Escape Rating B: For anyone who loves the series, The Librarians and the Lost Lamp reads like a terrific episode. And for fans, that’s a great thing. I’m not certain how it would read to anyone not familiar. So consider this one a book for those in the know.

That being said, not all media tie-in books do justice by their source material, either because they mess with the canonical timeline or by just not sounding or feeling like part of their original. Or by not being true to the characters. That’s not the case here. The characters are all very true to their TV counterparts, and this feels like a slightly-longer-than-an-hour episode of the series, complete with the series’ hallmarks of adventure, teamwork and madcap humor.

Again, if you love it, that’s good.

The series itself is out of the urban fantasy tradition, mixed with a whole lot of myths and legends. The place where it plays off of urban fantasy is in that concept that magic is real, and that for some reason most of us don’t see it, no matter how much we want to. In this version of the world, it’s the Library, and the many Librarians who have served it (and usually died) who have kept magic from leaking out everywhere.

The way that the Librarians, in this particular case Cassandra, resolve the dilemma of the djinn who plans to break out of his lamp and burn the world (no pressure!) fits well with the way the Librarians generally work, and with Cassie’s personality and methods in particular. However, it will also feel familiar to anyone who remembers the I of Newton episode of the 1985 revival of The Twilight Zone, or the Joe Haldeman story the episode was based on. Clearly, methods of dealing with the Devil on your doorstep apply equally well to angry djinn.

I had a lot of fun reading this, enough so that I’m looking forward to the author’s next contribution to the series, in The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase. And to going back a rewatching the show!

p.s. I read most of this on a flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta. Wait, what was that? Is that a gremlin on the wing?