A chat with Lev Grossman


We have with us today, Lev Grossman, in addition to writing book reviews for Time Magazine, Lev is also the internationally best-selling author of The Magicians, Warp, and Codex....

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The Weaver: An enchantingly dream-like novel


Readers’ average rating: The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta The Weaver (2016),  Emmi Itäranta’s second novel, is a powerful story that occupies a space between the fantastical 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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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

WWWednesday: May 23, 2018

This week’s word for Wednesday is courtesy of Dictionary.com, and it’s the noun gnashnab, which is a person who complains about everything.  It sounds like it would be the name of a Dickensian character, doesn’t it?

Sandhill crane near Lake Helen, Florida



Nebula Awards Announced:

The Nebula awards were announced on Saturday. N.K. Jemisin took home Best Novel for The Stone Sky; Martha Wells’s “All Systems Red” won Best Novella; Kelly Robson won with “A Human Stain” for best novelette and Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience ™” won for best short story.  Read More

Children of Blood and Bone: A familiar story raised up by its theme and setting

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone (2018) and the first of the LEGACY OF ORISHA series, is in many ways a typical debut YA novel that can feel a bit rote. On the other hand, its setting and stark presentation of theme make it stand out more than a little from the other such YA novels and add an importance to it that makes it well worth recommending.

Long ago in Orisha the maji wielded great power, but then the King (Saran) found a way to strip magic from them and commenced a great slaughter, though he did not kill those younger than thirteen (“diviners”, marked by their white hair) who had not yet come into their power (and now never would). Zélie is a diviner whose mother was murdered before her eyes when she was six. Since “The Raid,” Zélie’s people, r... Read More

Magic Breaks: Sins of the father

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Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

In Magic Breaks (2014), the seventh book in Ilona AndrewsKATE DANIELS urban fantasy series, the overarching plot lines of the series takes a lion-sized step forward, with a few major surprises along the way. *some spoilers for earlier books in the series*

Kate Daniels, her mate Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta's shapeshifter Pack, and their group have returned from their perilous trip to Europe, described in Magic Rises, where they ran into conflict with Hugh d’Ambray, the warlord of Roland. Roland is an ancient, immortal legend with nearly godlike magical powers, and Kate has been both hiding from him and planning his death... Read More

Three-Bladed Doom: Howard’s only El Borak novel

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Three-Bladed Doom by Robert E. Howard

Even those readers who have previously thrilled to the exploits of such Robert E. Howard characters as Conan the Barbarian, King Kull of Valusia, the Puritan fighter of evil Solomon Kane, the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, the piratical Cormac Mac Art, and boxer Steve Costigan might still be unfamiliar with the author’s El Borak. And, I suppose, there may be good reason for that. Howard only managed to sell five stories featuring the character before his suicide death, at age 30 in 1936, although 11 more would surface in later years. Of those 16 tales, only one was of a full novel length: Three-Bladed Doom. Like many other fans, this decades-long Howard buff had never run across this character before, and so, when I spotted the 1979 Ace edit... Read More

Daring: John Charming meets his makers

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Daring by Elliott James

This second novel in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA saga begins with an amusing top-ten list of things that people who didn’t read the first book, Charming, “really ought to know” (it’s a great way to do a re-cap), then jumps into the story.

Half-werewolf John Charming gets involved with both halves of his heritage in Daring (2014). One part is the Knights who raised and trained him, have been hunting him for years, and are now a threat to John’s new friends. The other part is a werewolf clan that wants to teach John their ways and initiate him into the pack. As he learn... Read More

To Kill a Kingdom: …but to merely disable a deadly love affair

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I loved the concept for this book. Siren princess (Lira) is punished by her power hungry Sea Queen mother for harboring a shred of "human" sentiment, and therefore, forced to seek the heart of a siren-hunting prince. Prince (Elian) casts about on the deep, in self-imposed exile from his own kingdom, vanquishing the world of the human killing sirens dominating the sea, and his only true home.

There were times, yes, many times when the narrative prose was lyrical and immersive and it drew me right in to this commercially quite popular story. Regrettably, that voice was inconsistent. In the main, I think this is due to imperfectly executed dual POV.

It’s hard to do dual POV well. Lira’s voice was by far the stronger of the two. Prince Elian had narrative responsibility for the “rag tag” crew’s assembly and much of their dialogue... Read More

Charming: Contemporary fantasy with a strong but vulnerable hero

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Charming by Elliott James

John Charming doesn't know exactly what he is. Well, he knows he’s a descendant of the Knights Templar, a group that’s under a geas to slay supernatural creatures who violate the Pax Arcana (a secret treaty the Knights made with the elves), but when his mother was pregnant with him, she was bitten by a werewolf. The werewolf blood gives John supernatural powers, something that’s anathema to the Knights. They trained him when he was young, but when his powers manifested, he was ostracized, and now some Knights are even hunting him, so he has to hide.

That’s how John Charming ended up as a bartender in a backwoods bar in a small Virginia town. He was satisfactorily flying under the radar until a beautiful six-foot-tall blonde showed up one night. John reluctantly gets pulled into her ragtag team of monster hunters who are trying to flush out a nasty nest of... Read More

Sunday Status Update: May 20, 2018

Another week has passed, which means...

 

Bill: This week I read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a debut YA novel that in many ways was overly-familiar in plotting and character, but that I’m still recommending due to its excellent presentation of theme and its relatively unique setting and background mythos, which are both African-based. I also finished Menno Schithuizen’s Darwin Comes to Town, an excellent examination of urban eco-systems and how cities are driving a fast-paced evolution of creatures and plants. And I’m just about three-quarters of the way through Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age, which looks at early Christians’ physical destruction of the classical world — its statues, writings, temples, etc. It’s vividly told, though a bit repetitive.  Finally, I also read... Read More

Grey Sister: A solid follow-up

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Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

Grey Sister, second novel in Mark Lawrence's BOOK OF THE ANCESTOR series, is a good follow-up to its predecessor. It's not a perfect novel, but on the whole it's exciting, well-written, and very gripping.

Since the last installment in the series, two years have passed, and Nona Grey is still a novice at the convent of Sweet Mercy. Her classes -- and her magical abilities -- have continued apace, teaching her to be deadlier than ever, but two years have brought her no closer to avenging her friend Hessa or recovering the convent's prized Ship Heart. Instead, Nona once again finds herself facing more typical schoolgirl problems such as sneering bullies and difficult exams. But just as it seems that her adventuring days might be behind her, she finds herself caught up in the long-gestating pla... Read More

The Prisoner of Limnos: Another chapter in Penric’s life

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The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Prisoner of Limnos (2017 print, 2018 audio) is another of Lois McMaster Bujold’s PENRIC AND DESDEMONA novellas. It is a direct sequel to Mira’s Last Dance, so I’d recommend reading that (and its prequels) first.

Penric and Nikys, the widow Penric is in love with, are safe at court in Orbas when Nikys gets an encrypted letter stating that her mother has been taken prisoner by political enemies in Cedonia.

To his delight, Nikys comes to Penric for help, and the two set off for Cedonia to bust mom out of jail. This will involve Penric dressing up like a woman (again), using his chaos ... Read More