History and Fantasy

Michael Pryor is the author of THE LAWS OF MAGIC, a young adult series set in an alternate Edwardian England (called Alibion in the series), which I thought was “charmingly...

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When the Birds Fly South: Urge for going

Readers’ average rating: When the Birds Fly South by Stanton A. Coblentz Never let it be said that you can’t learn anything from Facebook! It was on the Vintage Paperback and...

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Romani (Gypsy) Power in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers....

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Recent Posts

WWWednesday: March 21, 2018

Books and Writing:

When a writer sells international rights to a book, publishers frequently change covers. In the case of Barbara de Mariaffti’s book, the British publishers also changed the title. This is an interesting article about marketing and the state of fiction in Canada and Britain.

Mayan plaque, Courtesy of National Geographic

Over on Book View Café, Marie Brennan writes about body modification as adornment.

…and, the Feminist Story Bundle continue... Read More

Gulliver of Mars: An incredible fairy tale of adventure

Readers’ average rating:

Gulliver of Mars by Edwin L. Arnold

Editor's note: Because it's in the public domain, Gulliver of Mars is free in Kindle format.

On those rare occasions when it is discussed at all today, British author Edwin L. Arnold’s final book, Lt. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation, is primarily spoken of as a possible influence on Edgar Rice BurroughsJohn Carter novels. But this, it seems to me, is doing Arnold’s last writing endeavor a disservice, as the book is an exciting, highly imaginative, colorful piece of fantasy/sci-fi more than capable of standing on its own merits, discounting any possible relation to its more famous successor. Arnold’s book first saw the li... Read More

A Veil of Spears: Carries the series forward in good fashion

Readers’ average rating:

A Veil of Spears
by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Bradley P. Beaulieu returns to his desert setting in A Veil of Spears (2018), the third novel of THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED LANDS series. Book one for me remains the strongest, but both the sequel and now A Veil of Spears are worthy follow ups that both deepen and broaden the story and the characters. I’m going to assume you’ve read the first two novels (you really need to have done so), so fair warning that there will be spoilers for those two books ahead.

The book picks up shortly after the last with Çeda continuing her attempt to bring down the Kings of Sharakhai, which were twelve in book one (named, um, Read More

Shadowhouse Fall: Still magical, still powerful, still wonderful

Readers’ average rating:

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper was one of the best books of 2015 — not “best YA books” but best books of all categories. It featured an engaging, authentic female hero, an original magical system, mundane issues as well as magical ones, and a distinctive voice and sensibility. 2017’s sequel, Shadowhouse Fall, shows no second-book slump in this series.

Sierra Santiago is mastering her skill as a shadowshaper, an ability that melds spirit contact with art, and adjusting to her new role as the Lucera, but things are not calm or quiet in her neighborhood. A powerful rival group called the Sorrows still pursues her. Early in the ... Read More

Blood of the Four: Dangerous magic and brutal conspiring

Readers’ average rating: 

Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

Magic is an elusive and dangerous thing in the kingdom of Quandis, forbidden to all except a few select priests who spend their lives preparing to handle the ancient magic, and even then inhale only a few smoky tendrils of the powerful magic. Princess Phela thrives on sneaking through hidden passages of the castle, seeking to overhear others’ information and secrets. When Phela hears her mother, the queen, confessing (in a drug-induced haze) to her lover Linos Kallistrate that she, the queen, has been exploring the far depths of the castle seeking out the magic of the Four, who are the gods of Quandis, she’s appalled at the heresy, but eager to find a way to use this secret to further her own ambitions.

Meanwhile, among the Bajumen ― the hereditary slaves of Quandis marked by their deep blue eyes and serpentine brands ― Bla... Read More

Sunday Status Update: March 18, 2018

Our reviewers have a few books on the burner this week!

Bill: This week I read in order of preference:

A Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu, a strong third book in an excellent series.
I, Mammal by Liam Drew, a fascinating look at how mammalian traits evolved into their present form
The Tangled lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell, a sequential series of four novellas in a shared world. I liked Bacigalupi’s better than Buckell’s, but overall enjoyed the world and the sharp metaphor that underpins it
White Sand Volume 2, second in a graphic series by Brandon Sanderson that has mostly disappointed to this point in both story and artwork
Dayfall by Michael David Ares, a debut I gave 100 pages to ... Read More

The Coincidence Makers: Weaving an elaborate web

Readers’ average rating:

The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum

Behind the scenes of our lives, pulling the strings for the benefit of humanity, are the people assigned as “coincidence makers,” arranging the events that need to happen in people's lives, both on a personal and larger scale. It may be making a particular love connection by arranging that two people meet at the right time, or taking steps to help an accountant find his true work in being a poet, or ensuring that an assassin is pointed in the right path to later do society a larger good. Coincidence makers work for a hidden organization that supervises and directs their generally benevolent efforts, along with those of imaginary friends, dream weavers, luck distributors and other useful employees, endowing them with supernatural powers, while insisting on compliance with a plethora of bureaucratic rules and restrictions.

Guy, Emily, and Eric are all... Read More

Dayfall: Did Not Finish (couldn’t get past the writing)

Readers’ average rating:

Dayfall by Michael David Ares

Dayfall (2018) is set in a near-future after a short nuclear war between India and Pakistan created a partial nuclear winter, casting part of the world, including New York City, into perpetual darkness. Crime has risen and Jon Phillips, a PA cop who takes own a serial killer early in the book is sent to deal with another one in the city known as the Dayfall Killer. Complicating things is the immanent return of the sun (the titular “dayfall”) and predictions of chaos and panic (think Asimov and Silverberg’s Nightfall, but reversed).

As usual with my DNFs (Did Not Finish), I’ll be brief as I don’t ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Our favorite SFF drinking establishments

Last year, for our Thoughtful Thursday St. Patrick’s Day Version I noted how the day always sees me browsing through one of my favorite Irish exports: the poetry of William Butler Yeats.

For this year’s post, I’m turning to another beloved aspect of Irish culture: the pub (which you might think couldn’t be exported, but you’d be wrong it turns out).

My best memories of Ireland are nights spent in pubs filled with and fueled by fiddle, flute and Guinness; banjo, bodhran and Guinness; pipe, tin whistle and Guinness; reels and jigs and songs and Guinness. Did I mention they have Guinness? (and no, it doesn’t travel well...).

It’s hard for me to imagine a place better than the pubs of Doolin, but that is... Read More

The Android’s Dream: More like The Fifth Element than Bladerunner

Readers’ average rating:  

The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

The Android’s Dream (2006) is one of John Scalzi’s earlier books, and a stand-alone rather than part of a series, so I couldn’t resist given the obvious Philip K. Dick reference in the title. I decided to go into this one without knowing anything about the plot or reading any reviews at all. I know Scalzi’s humor and style from the OLD MAN’S WAR series, Redshirts and Lock In, and I love the audio narration of Wil Wheaton, so I figured I’d give it a try. I was also surp... Read More