The Goblin Emperor: A beautiful world and protagonist


Reposting to include Jana’s new review. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison A few weeks ago I finally finished with revisions to my dissertation and rewarded myself with a...

Read More
Feed: One more zombie novel?


Feed by Mira Grant I have grown weary of zombies. In the past five years, everyone started writing zombie novels, apparently out of ennui at the thought of writing yet another...

Read More
Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death, and Art


Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death, and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes If your view of a Neanderthal is a sloped-head, grunting, not-so-bright guy hunched against blowing snow while...

Read More
River of Stars: A beautifully crafted, moving novel


River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay Since this is a fantasy review site, let’s get this out nice and early. Outside of its setting — a fictionalized and truncated version of...

Read More

Recent Posts

Understanding Genes: Might be tough reading for some, and too easy for others

Understanding Genes by Kostas Kampourakis 

Understanding Genes (2021), by Kostas Kampourakis, sits in a sometimes-awkward position betwixt and between a popular science book and a textbook. As such, lay readers looking for simple, smooth, easy-to-follow explanations may want to look elsewhere or be prepared to struggle and/or skim. Those with some background in biology (beyond their high school/early college courses) will fare better.

The intent of the book is a caution against genetic essentialism or fatalism and against the over-simplification, over-aggrandization, and over-simplification of the role genes play in human development generally, but especially (and mostly) with regard to disease. Here’s where the betwixt and between is a bit awkward, because while those who read about genetics only via the newspaper or online/TV news might be subjected to such ... Read More

WWWednesday: November 24, 2021

This Guardian UK story follows the process of restoring an ancient book of psalms.

Articles about the Dragon Awards always draw me in, because the Dragon Award is fairly new and it’s a chance to watch an award evolve in the wild. That said, the title of this one baffled me for several paragraphs, but rest assured, Goodreads does make an appearance!

The Huntington Museum is offering an exhibition of graphics demonstrating how authors have “mapped” their fictional works.  (Thanks to File 770.)

Read More

The Girl and the Mountain:

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence

The Girl and the Mountain (2021) is the second installment in Mark Lawrence’s BOOK OF THE ICE series. It follows The Girl and the Stars, which you need to read first. There will be a few spoilers for that book in this review.

The Girl and the Stars introduced an icy world inhabited by tribes that follow a spiritual leader who, every few years, chooses each tribes’ weakest children and throws them into a hole in the ice where they, presumably, die. But when our hero, Yaz, jumps in after her brother, she discovers a new world below the ice where the children who’ve been disposed of have built their own civilization. When she realizes that ... Read More

Scribe: Come for the bleakness, stay for the poetry

Scribe by Alyson Hagy

Alyson Hagy’s slim 2018 literary novella Scribe mines Appalachian folktales for a bleak, harrowing and poetic story about loss, guilt, love and honor. By deliberately setting the story in a world outside of our time and space, Hagy forces attention onto the characters, which at times gives the book the feel of a stage-play more than a story or a poem.

In spite of an otherworldly setting, this novel isn’t speculative fiction. Hagy isn’t raising questions about how people live in a world like this one. She’s exploring the effects of isolation, guilt and trauma against a folkloric setting, and asking, “In a terrible situation, how do we find the good in each other?”

In order to help set expectations, I will engage in a mild spoiler. In this world, there has been an historic civil war. There have, it seems, been several wars. There have been mi... Read More

The Green Man: Screwball sci-fi

The Green Man by Harold M. Sherman

A short while back, I had some words to say about Festus Pragnell’s 1935 novel The Green Man of Graypec, which had originally appeared in the pages of Wonder Stories magazine and had given us the tale of a green-furred caveman living in a subatomic world. Now I am here to report on another green man, but one of a wholly different nature; one who hails not from the infinitesimally small microverse, but rather from a planet over a trillion miles away. The book in question is fittingly called The Green Man, was released over a decade after Pragnell’s novel and is very much lighter in tone. Most importantly, though, the book has revealed itself to be a delight to... Read More

Sunday Status Update: November 21, 2021

Kat:  I continue to listen to Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES with my daughter. We finished the third book, Cress, last night. We’ll be starting the fourth one, Winter, today. I’m also reading Poul Anderson’s The Boat of a Million Years. It’s long, so it will probably take me a while.

Read More

A Gift for a Ghost: Four young women express themselves through art

A Gift for a Ghost by Borja Gonzalez (writing and art)

A Gift for a Ghost is a comic book of two intertwined stories, one from 1856 and the other from 2016. In 1856, a young woman, Teresa, talks with a skeleton, asking him why he is crying. After a short conversation, they go look at the stars. This scene is typical of the visions that Teresa has throughout the book. In 2016, another young woman, Gloria, gets dressed in her room, which is covered in music posters. A butterfly connects the two stories, flying out of 1856 into 2016, landing in Gloria’s room on the lampshade.

Gloria meets up with her two friends, Cristina and Laura. The three of them want to start a high school punk band — The Black Holes. Only they have one problem: None of them can play any instruments, of which Cristina has plenty in her basement, which is set up as a rehearsal room (decorated with rock posters and littered with horro... Read More

Comfort Me With Apples: All happy families are (not) alike

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Sophia’s life is perfect. She adores her husband, her company is much sought-after in the luxurious gated community she and her various neighbors share, she has endless tasks and joys to fill the long days while she waits for her husband to return from his various freelancing jobs. So why does everyone keep asking if she’s happy? Why has her husband forbidden her from breaching their home’s basement? Everything is perfect … right?

It would be easy to call Comfort Me With Apples (2021) a retelling of the “Bluebeard” folktale, and that’s part of what Catherynne M. Valente is doing in this slim novella, but that’s not where the story ends — Valente’s also drawing from other, older, darker so... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Eighth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest

Time for our eighth annual SPECULATIVE FICTION HAIKU CONTEST!  Anyone can do this!

As a reminder, here are the rules:

For haiku, the typical subject matter is nature, but if you decide to be traditional, you must give it a fantasy, science fiction, or horror twist. We expect to be told that the peaceful wind you describe is blowing across a landscape of an unfamiliar, distant planet. And if your poem is about a flower, we hope that elegant little touch of beauty is about to be trampled by an Orc. We welcome the sublime as well as the humorous, the pedestrian along with the momentous.

Though you may use the traditional three-line haiku following a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, feel free to break that pattern. Many poets who write English haiku adhere to other expectations:

Written in three lines, though sometimes in two or f... Read More

The Bone Shard Emperor: A step backwards

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

Andrea Stewart’s debut novel, The Bone Shard Daughter, was an engaging beginning to a new fantasy trilogy, showing some originality in setting and magic system, introducing a few interesting characters, and incorporating several complex moral questions. While it also had its fair share of weaknesses (half the characters were far less interesting, a major implausible narrative contrivance, and some predictable plotting), they were outweighed by the novel’s strengths enough to make it a solid recommendation. Unfortunately, although that also holds true in the follow-up, The Bone Shard Emperor (2021), it’s only just barely, leading to my thinking that big fans of the first book ... Read More