A chat with Karen Chance

We have with us today, Karen Chance, author of two extremely enjoyable fantasy series that I count among my personal favorites: the CASSANDRA PALMER and DORINA BASARAB...

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Coraline: For brave children who like to squirm

Readers’ average rating: Coraline by Neil Gaiman Coraline’s family has just moved into a new flat. Her parents are always busy with their own work and Coraline (please don’t...

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SF or Fantasy? Who cares?

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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Our rating system

We realize that we’re not professional literature critics — we’re just a group of readers who love to read and write about speculative fiction — but we...

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Recent Posts

Thoughtful Thursday is on Spring Break

Here are our current giveaways.

See you next week! Read More

Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War: Excellent examination of how realistic Martin’s world is

Readers’ average rating:

Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War by Ken Mondschein

Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War
(2017), by Ken Mondschein, is just what he himself labels it: “an entire book on the rather nerdy and troublesome subject of how medieval warfare is reflected in a fantasy book series.” It’s also an extremely informative and often entertaining one, and in addition does the service of “rebut [ting] the pop-culture Middle Ages as a Jurassic World of resurrected straight white male barbarians out of a Frazetta painting.” Whether you’re a fan of the TV series or of medieval-era fantasy, an aspiring writer of said fantasy, or someone interested in delving into the actual history, Mondschein offers up an erudite and well-written book to meet your needs, one that hits a welcome sweet spot on the spectrum from academia to popular writing.

The chapters inc... Read More

La Belle Sauvage: A companion to HIS DARK MATERIALS

Readers’ average rating: 

Reposting to include Katie's new review.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

I always find it a little nerve-wracking when an author returns to a successful series after a long time away. There's always the fear, for me at least, that one of two things is going to happen: either the author will be nostalgic about the original work to the extent that s/he makes the new book into a fawning tribute without substance, or the author will have changed enough in the time between installments that the magic is just gone. I'm happy to say, though, that Philip Pullman's new novel dispels both of those fears. La Belle Sauvage (2017) is, though not quite as much a game-changer as The Golden C... Read More

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