Tad Williams talks about world-building


I’m reading two of Tad Williams‘s books right now, and enjoying both very much. The first is The War of the Flowers, a one-volume epic fantasy with marvelous imagery...

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Ghosts & Echoes: This is what urban fantasy can be


Readers’ average rating: Ghosts & Echoes by Lyn Benedict I’ve never met a Lyn Benedict/Lane Robins book I didn’t like, but Ghosts & Echoes is the best of her work...

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The Function of the Blade


A. J. Smith has been devising the worlds, histories and characters of THE LONG WAR CHRONICLES for more than a decade. He was born in Birmingham, UK, and works in secondary...

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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

Writing What We Know (Or Not)

David B. Coe / D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes THE CASE FILES OF JUSTIS FEARSSON, a contemporary urban fantasy series from Baen Books, including Spell Blind, His Father’s Eyes, and Shadow’s Blade. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes THE THIEFTAKER CHRONICLES, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Read More

Throne of Glass: Teenage escapism and wish-fulfilment

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

There are two main storylines in Throne of Glass. In one, a deadly assassin is unleashed from prison to travel to the capital and take part in a royal tournament for hired killers where the competitors often meet mysterious and gruesome ends (because, you know, assassin tournament). In the other, an extremely flaky girl tries on lots of expensive dresses, goes to parties, gushes over how pretty she looks today, and flirts with attractive men who like to pamper her with expensive presents. In a brighter universe, the novel would end with the assassin murdering the Popular Girl before she had the chance to complete her dude-harem. Alas, the assassin and the girl are of course the same person, and consequently neither plotline feels fully realized. It’s as if author Sarah ... Read More

The Ascension Factor: A poor finish to the PANDORA SEQUENCE

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The Ascension Factor by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom

The Ascension Factor (1988) is the third book Frank Herbert wrote in collaboration with Bill Ransom and the fourth in THE PANDORA SEQUENCE, a series introduced in his novel Destination: Void (1966). It's a series plagued with problems and tragedy. The Jesus Incident (1979), had to be extensively rewritten at the last moment after a copyright issue threatened to block its publication. The Lazarus Effect (1983), was written during the rapidly declining health of Herbert's second wife Beverly. She died less than a year after its publication. Herbert himself did not live to see the publication of The Ascension Factor. He died in February 1986, with much of the actual writing of the novel still to be do... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Our SPFBO winner!

We have finally chosen our winner for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their work to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs. This last round was really tough, containing some of the best of the 30 books we were given. In fact, we had planned to have our winner declared last week, but we needed a little more time for comparison.

In the end, we chose the book that has been at the top of our list since our first round — The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis — but it just barely edged out three of the books in our last round! We liked The Shadow Soul for its engaging story, smooth pacing, complexity of character, and overall sense of ambition. It definitely has some “issues” that we’ll bring out in our review (which Tadiana is preparing), and the fact... Read More

Wonder Women: Perfect for young (and not-so-young) historians or scientists (PREORDER DEAL!)

See the information at the end of my review for a special preorder deal!

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Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

If you know a young woman who’s interested in the contributions of women to various STEM/STEAM fields, or perhaps were one of those young women at one point in your life, you’ll be pleased to learn that Sam Maggs’ latest non-fiction work, Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History, is an entertaining and surprisingly thorough look at the ways in which women have positively changed the world. The women featured in this book succeeded despite opposition from society as a whole, ruling theocracies, or discouragement from family members; very few of them began with the support one might ex... Read More

Blood of Elves: I thought I was tired of elves and dwarves

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Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Based on internal chronology, Blood of Elves (2008) is the third book in Andrzej Sapkowski’s WITCHER series. Its format differs slightly from the previous two books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which are actually story collections. (But don’t think that just because they’re not novels they aren’t necessary; to have the requisite background information you really do need to read both of them before reading Blood of Elves.)

As much as I loved The Last Wish an... Read More

WWWednesday; September 28, 2016

This week’s word for Wednesday is anfractuous, an adjective, meaning winding or circuitous. The 16th century word comes from the Latin noun anfractus, meaning a bending.

Awards:

The MacArthur Foundation Fellowships were announced this week, and 23 Fellows were named. The group includes a civil rights lawyer, historians, art historians, linguists, poets, microbiologists, video artists and writers. Of the 23, ten are women. (Thanks to File 770.)

Tor.com lists the British Fantasy Award winners here.

Books and Writing:

Ruth Franklin has published a new book about Shirley Jackson, and she shares eleven facts you might not have known about one of America’s premiere writers. ... Read More

The Wolf in the Attic: Like reading two different books. I really liked one of them.

Readers’ average rating:

The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney

Reading The Wolf in the Attic, by Paul Kearney, was like reading two different books. One of these books was a solid three-star read. The other was very familiar and ultimately unsatisfying, and would probably get a 2.5 star rating from me. I’ll explain at the end of the review how I came to the overall rating I chose.

Kearney’s other work is described as second-world epic fantasy and he is compared to David Gemell. The Wolf in the Attic is a departure for him. It’s set in 1920s Oxford, England, and the main character is an eleven-year-old girl named Anna.

Anna Francis, like her father, is a Greek refugee, forced t... Read More

A Fine and Private Place: A gentle tale of love, death, and lost souls

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A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle is a well-known author of many fantasy novels, including the classic The Last Unicorn. However, I don’t often hear mention of his debut novel, A Fine and Private Place (1960), written when he was only 19 years old. Given his age it’s a phenomenal achievement — the prose is polished, filled with pathos and humor, and the characters’ relationships are deftly described. And yet I couldn’t get into the story at all, because there was almost no dramatic tension of any kind — just two central romantic relations, one between two people lonely and disconnected in the living world, and one between two recently deceased spirits not ready to let go of life.

The story bears remarkable sim... Read More

Author Marc Aramini talks to Stuart about the complicated works of Gene Wolfe

Last year I tried twice (unsuccessfully) to finish The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Retrospective of His Finest Fiction, giving up in defeat. Many SFF readers are baffled and frustrated by his stories, because they are packed with metaphors, literary references, hidden themes, and require extremely close reading to understand and appreciate. I did get a lot of supportive feedback from various readers who encountered the same difficulties, including a very knowledgeable person named “Aramini”.

When the 2016 Hugo Awards were announced, Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 was the runner-up in the Best Related Work category. It’s an 826-page analysis covering Wolfe’s output through 1986, including ... Read More