Jana Nyman

JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but recently settled in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are Bradbury, James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, and Philip Pullman.

Crown of Feathers: Too familiar for me

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

If you like Anne McCaffrey’s DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN series and are looking for more of the same — elite society of beast-riders with a telepathic/empathic link between human and animal — then Nicki Pau Preto’s YA debut novel Crown of Feathers (2019), the first in a series of the same name, might be worth your time. If you’ve read enough of this type of book to pick out key plot points and character developments from seven leagues away, though, there won’t be much here to surprise you.

Veronyka and her older sister Val were orphaned as children by the war racking their country and raised by their grandmother until her recent death, at which point Val took responsibility for the pair. The two teenagers are desperate to join the ranks of the fabled Phoe... Read More

Rati Mehrotra chats about her ASIANA duology (and gives away a copy)

Today Fantasy Literature welcomes Rati Mehrotra, whose ASIANA duology explores multiple themes and genres; she joins me to discuss those aspects of her YA novels, her current work-in-progress, and a delicious-sounding cuppa. One commenter will win one copy each of Markswoman and Mahimata!

Jana: The ASIANA duology features a blend of science fiction, fantasy, and post-apocalyptia. What challenges did you face in combining elements of these genres, and how were each of them essential to telling this particular story?

Rati Mehrotra: Don’t forget the fourth, i.e. mythology! All these elements came together ve... Read More

Polaris Rising: A sexy, take-no-prisoners romp through space

Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

Jessie Mihalik’s debut novel, Polaris Rising (2019), is a bit like if Leia Organa and Han Solo didn’t have that wet blanket Luke Skywalker moping about, bringing everyone down with his whinging about moisture farming and power converters. It’s a story about a runaway princess and an outlaw soldier causing all kind of space-shenanigans, evading capture by the princess’ intended fiancé and her overbearing father, and the best part is that the princess is the one driving all the action and risking everything to protect her life and the lives of her companions.

So who is this princess? Ada von Hasenberg, one of the lowest-ranked among her five siblings in terms of succession to their father’s power and holdings, whose usefulness lies in being married off to one of the two other High Houses controlling the known universe, either House Rockhurst or Ho... Read More

SCHOOL BUS OF HORRORS: Short, scary stories for young readers

SCHOOL BUS OF HORRORS by Michael Dahl, with illustrations by Euan Cook

If you know a young reader who likes scary stories but who isn’t quite up to tackling something the length of, say, a GOOSEBUMPS book, give Michael Dahl and Euan Cook’s SCHOOL BUS OF HORRORS series a shot. Four new titles are being released at once: Night Shift, Auto Body Parts, Ooze Control, and Shocks! (2019). The series is recommended for readers in the 9-to-13-year-old-range, though I would guess that’s more due to the thematic content than complexity of language; the stories are engaging though told very simply, and seem perfectly matched for “hi-lo readers” or “ Read More

Wild Country: Did Not Finish

Wild Country by Anne Bishop

Wild Country (2019) is the seventh book in Anne Bishop’s series THE OTHERS and, also, the second book in her THE WORLD OF THE OTHERS series.

In Bishop’s fictional universe, the world is made up of humans — who, near as I can tell, are mostly descended from white Europeans — and the “terra indigene,” also called The Others, monstrous creatures with the outward appearance of human beings and who are, apparently, the indigenous peoples of the American continents, Africa, etc. There are shapeshifters who can shift from, say, an eagle or wolf into a human body, and Sanguinati, a cabal of blood-suckers who specialize in legal and financial matters. (It was at these realizations that I decided this was not the book or series for me, and in checking around onl... Read More

Mahimata: Concludes the ASIANA duology with more questions than answers

Mahimata by Rati Mehrotra

Rati Mehrotra follows up her YA debut, Markswoman, with Mahimata (2019), the other half of her ASIANA duology, a bubbling cauldron of fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic Earth, and telekinetic metal forged into guns and swords. Brief, but unavoidable spoilers for Markswoman will follow; I’ll keep them to a minimum.

Kyra, still gravely wounded from her battle with Tamsyn, carries much doubt and anger both as a result of what she learned about Tamsyn during their duel and how Kyra ended that duel. The Order of Kali’s elders have spent the past few months since then in conference, and have arrived at a decision: Kyra will be named Mahimata, the le... Read More

Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns: Technicolor gross-out fun

XANDER AND THE RAINBOW-BARFING UNICORNS: Fairies Hate Ponies & Who Turned Off the Colors? by Matthew K. Manning & Joey Ellis

XANDER AND THE RAINBOW-BARFING UNICORNS is a sweet, silly children’s series written by Matthew K. Manning and illustrated by Joey Ellis; the two most recent entries are Fairies Hate Ponies (2019) and Who Turned Off the Colors? (2019). The series is marketed toward kids in the 8-to-10-year-old range, though some of that is going to be dependent upon the reading proficiency and intestinal fortitude of the kid in question. Be prepared for plenty of gross-out humor and copious amounts of technicolor vomit issued by unicorns afflicted with a zombie virus.

Fortunately, the unicorns themselves appear to be caught in a state of semi-decay, with various body p... Read More

Alison Wilgus tells us about CHRONIN (giveaway!)

Today Fantasy Literature welcomes Alison Wilgus, a veteran of the graphic novel industry as well as a prose author and screenwriter for Cartoon Network! Ms. Wilgus joins me to talk about her latest publication, Chronin Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back, her writing and artistic process, and an admirable amount of research. One commenter will win a copy of Chronin Vol. 1 along with a book-themed sticker and postcard from Tor Books!

I’d like to start by asking you about the origin of Mirai Yoshida’s story — how did this story come to you? Creation-wise, was there a fairly straightforward path from the initial sketches and thoughts to a completed publication, or were there changes and surprises along the way?

Chronin was very much constructed around Mirai, so she’s always been at the heart of it... Read More

Dragon Pearl: A young girl, chasing adventure, finds herself

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

The Rick Riordan Presents imprint’s mission statement is, in part, “to publish great middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage,” leading to the publication of novels like Roshani Chokshi’s Aru Shah and the End of Time and J.C. CervantesThe Storm Runner, and most recently joined by Yoon Ha Lees Dragon Pearl Read More

SFM: Harrow, Kemper, Kowal, Lawrence

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted to share with you. 



“Do Not Look Back, My Lion” by Alix E. Harrow (2019, free in Beyond Ceaseless Skies, Issue #270, Jan. 31, 2019; 99c Kindle magazine issue)

“Do Not Look Back, My Lion,” begins and ends with Eefa leaving home — she cannot bear to see her daughters and wife march to war any longer, is tired of her wife’s promises that this child (and this child and that child) will be the last marked at ... Read More

Chronin Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back

Chronin Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back by Alison Wilgus

The time: July 1864. The place: a tea shop in Edo; what modern folks would call Tokyo, Japan. After some reluctance on his part, a tea mistress named Hatsu hires a reticent samurai, Yoshida Minoru, to act as her bodyguard while she travels outside the city on a private errand. What Hatsu quickly discovers, and what the reader already knows, is that Yoshida Minoru is no samurai at all — but is actually Mirai Yoshida, a university student from New York City in the year 2042.

Mirai was part of a special group of students, all of whom were chosen for their academic excellence and dedication, who were given access to time-travel technology in order to better study historically significant events. Their trips to the Tokugawa Shogunate period were supposed to be as unobtrusive as possible, spending just a little time interacting with locals before returning home via special beacon... Read More

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy: Diverse opinions for a story of diversity

Editor's note: BINTI was originally published in three separate novellas but has recently been released in a complete trilogy. We've combined all of our new and previous BINTI reviews in this post.

BINTI: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor

As Binti, a mathematically brilliant, 16 year old member of the African Himba tribe, sneaks away from her home in the dead of night, I felt almost as much anticipation as Binti herself. Binti has decided, against massive family pressure, to accept a full-ride scholarship to the renowned Oomza University on a planet named ― wait for it ― Oomza Uni. (Perhaps the university sprawls across the entire planet? Certainly it covers several cities many miles apart.) Himba tribe members are technically advanced but socially isolated from other people, and Binti’s breaking away from her tribe evidences her courage, but leaves her isolated, an outsider.
Read More

Welcome to Night Vale: Buckle up — it’s going to be a weird ride

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

If you enjoy horror in all its many forms, or just plain Weird Stuff, odds are good that you’ve at least heard of (if not been sucked into the fandom vortex of) the highly-acclaimed podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Its creators, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, have spent the last five years expanding upon a central premise — there’s a desert town in the southwestern region of the United States, where all manner of strange things happen and time doesn’t really exist — through twice-monthly podcast episodes. The success of the podcast has led to a number of other projects, including this novel, Welcome to Night Vale (2015), which is a perfect entry point for anyone wondering what... Read More

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter: We like it

Reposting to include Skye's new review.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

In The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), Theodora Goss has created something really exciting and rewarding: a novel that pays homage to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works of speculative fiction which inform every standard the modern incarnation of the genre is judged by, and yet stands on its own as a twenty-first century creation.

The epigraph — “Here be monsters” — and a subsequent recorded exchange between Mary and Catherine set the scene: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is a collaborative effort, though by whom and for what purpose is not immediately plain. First we are introduced to Mary Jekyll, recently orph... Read More

The Gutter Prayer: Alchemical fire, living saints, and knucklebones

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

The first instalment in Gareth Hanrahan’s THE BLACK IRON LEGACY is a bit like an avalanche: The Gutter Prayer (2019) starts out slowly and a tad scattershot, taking about 150 - 200 pages to build momentum, but when everything falls into place, it becomes an onslaught, picking up speed over the next 300 or so pages before crashing to a breathless finish.

Within the ancient coastal city of Guerdon, citizens maintain an air of normalcy, going about their daily lives as though below the city streets there aren’t miles and miles of subterranean warrens and passages filled with flesh-eating ghouls and Crawling Ones, hive-minded masses of sentient maggots. Liberal use of alchemy enriches their lives, providing conveniences and medicine (for a price) and enforcing the law via Tallowmen, humanoid figures made of animated wa... Read More

Realm of Ruins: Definitely not for me

Realm of Ruins by Hannah West

Though billed simultaneously as a stand-alone companion novel and a sequel to Hannah West’s Kingdom of Ash and Briars, I would strongly recommend reading Realm of Ruins (2018) after that novel, as many of the events and characters from the first novel are mentioned in the second, and not having any references for those details tended to distract me whenever they cropped up in the text.

European fairy-tale references abound throughout THE NISSERA CHRONICLES, particularly the ones adapted into Disney movies: Kingdom of Ash and Briars appears to have contained elements of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, while Realm of Ruins has sub-plots taken straight from Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, along with some clear nods to ... Read More

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?: A phenomenal display of imagination and talent

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin continues to delight and amaze with How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? (2018), a powerful and thoughtful collection of twenty-two stories. Some stories metaphorically shook me by the collar and demanded whether I’m doing enough to better the world around me, some surprised me with a combination of sweetness and self-assurance, and some just flat-out brought me to tears.

Jemisin’s introduction is particularly useful, as she looks back over her authorial journey (so far) and provides tidbits about which stories collected here are interrelated, or perhaps were written in response to other authors’ works, or are connected to her own work, or are “’proof of concept’ stories,” as she puts it, “to test-drive potential novel worlds.” It’s a... Read More

Empire of Sand: A powerful first novel

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Empire of Sand is one of those rare debut novels that doesn’t read at all like a first effort; Tasha Suri’s prose is strong and assured, her characters are nuanced and multi-layered, and her world-building is lushly detailed. Since Empire of Sand’s publication in November 2018, a sequel has been announced, along with the news of its being optioned for a television series, which is quite impressive for a book that’s only two months old as of this writing.

I disagree with Variety referring to Empire of Sand as Young Adult; though Suri’s protagonist, Mehr, does experience an intense coming-of-age arc over the course of the novel, the personal growth she experiences come... Read More

SFM: Norja, Bunker, Cliff, Nayler, Nikel

Short Fiction Monday: Our exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.

 




“Birch Daughter” by Sara Norja (2018, free at Fireside Magazine)

“Birch Daughter” is about Aino, a young woman whose mother was turned into a birch tree by an evil spell. After hearing from the forest-folk in her dreams, Aino sets out to save her mother from her fate.

There’s a certain delicacy to “Birch Daughter.” From the first few lines it made me acutely aware of every choice every character made, in a way that made me also very aware that if any of those choices weren’t made so quickly or so confidently or even so quietly, everything in the story would come crashing down.

I enjo... Read More

Fearless: Second verse, same as the first

Fearless by Sarah Tarkoff

Sarah Tarkoff follows up her debut YA novel Sinless with Fearless (2019), the second installment in the EYE OF THE BEHOLDER trilogy. I didn’t enjoy Sinless and this trilogy’s middle book didn’t get its hooks in me either, carrying over a lot of the issues I had with book one and creating some entirely new ones that don’t bode well for the trilogy as a whole.

Grace Luther remains preternaturally lucky, which is a good thing for this series, because otherwise her ineptitude and impetuousness would make for a very short book with a swift and unpleasant ending. She’s currently employed by the Prophet Joshua and his Guru, Samuel, as an undercover agent ... Read More

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful: Linked stories exploring humanity’s potential

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

Arwen Elys Dayton’s latest novel, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful (2018) is a novel comprised of six linked stories, each taking part in a different point in humanity’s future, beginning “A few years from now,” leapfrogging to various points beyond, and ending when “They have left us far behind.” Dayton doesn’t specify the precise year or time period, letting the pace and scale of scientific advancements inform the reader’s imagination. Her teenaged protagonists each experience some kind of alteration (or lack thereof) and must cope with backlash, acceptance, or rejection of their changing selves and the significance those changes have on the world around them.

“Matched Pair” — An affecting story about twins Evan and Julia Weary, who are quite ill, and whose parents have decided that one surviving child, ... Read More

The City of Brass: A dream of djinni

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Nahri, a young woman living alone in 18th century Cairo, gets by doing minor cons, fake healing rituals and a little theft. She knows nothing about her parents or heritage but, in addition to being able to diagnose disease in others with a glance and occasionally truly heal them, her own body automatically heals of injuries almost instantly and she has the magical ability to understand ― and speak ― any language.

Nahri's life gets upended when she accidentally summons Darayavahoush, a fiery, handsome djinn warrior, to her side while performing a sham healing ceremony. After he gets over his murderous rage at being involuntarily summoned, Dara saves Nahri from murderous ifrit and ghouls who have become aware of Nahri and her abilities. Dara quickly enchants a magic carpet and, dragging along the reluctant Nahri, he flees with her toward Daevabad, the legendary city of brass inhabited by mag... Read More

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman: Meandering across the continent

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

With so much to recommend about The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, from Theodora Goss’ fresh takes on nineteenth-century novels and characters to the inventive way she brought all of them together, I had extremely high hopes for its first sequel, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (2018). And while it was great to have the Athena Club back together again, the overall tone and pace of this novel were so different from its predecessor, so committed to following the glacial speed of a contemporary railway journey across Europe (twice, no less), that it was surprisingly easy for me to take reading breaks. However, the fin... Read More

The Razor: Comfortably familiar

The Razor by J. Barton Mitchell

Reading J. Barton Mitchell’s The Razor (2018) was a lot like going to the cinema with friends to see a big-budget blockbuster of a sci-fi/horror flick: there are some interesting settings and explosive plot developments, tough-as-plasteel characters gradually reveal inner hearts of gold, shadowy figures make dubious deals while our heroes struggle valiantly against impossible odds, and the ending sets up the possibility for more of the same. It’s entertaining, even if there’s nothing all that earth-shattering, and it was relaxing to spend a few afternoons indulging the part of my brain that loves seeing stuff go boom.

11-H37, aka The Razor, is a prison planet tidally locked in orbit around a red giant star. The hemisphere facing the star is constantly blasted by radiation and is, therefore, uninhabitable; the hemisphere facing away is a frozen wastela... Read More

Fire & Heist: An easy contender for Best YA of 2018

Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

I’d only previously read Sarah Beth Dursts QUEENS OF RENTHIA series, so I was excited to have the chance to read Fire & Heist (2018), her latest YA novel. I never know whether an author whose adult work is enjoyable will write well for a young adult audience — or vice versa — but I’m pleased to be able to report that Durst is clearly adept at writing for any age group, and particularly so for nerdy readers.

Sky Hawkins is the kind of leading character many readers would love to hate. She comes from a family who “owned at one time a fleet of Aston Martins and [gave] the gardener his own Tesla,” and readily acknowledges that she might seem like just another “poor little rich girl” in Aspen, Colorado who deserves “the world’s smallest ... Read More

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