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.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter: Monsters, men, and monstrous men

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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 orphaned daughter of Dr. ... Read More

The accidental novel, and other surprises (giveaway!)

Today Bradley W. Schenck stops by Fantasy Literature to discuss his writing process for Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom, an illustrated retro-futuristic novel that pays homage to the Golden Age of science fiction while embracing twenty-first century sensibilities. We’re giving away a hardcover copy of the book as well as a Retropolis-themed coffee mug to one lucky commenter! (Oh, and please read my review of Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom.)

When I look back to 2012 I don’t know when, exactly, I saw what Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom was going to be... Read More

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: …and all for the want of a slide rule

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Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom by Bradley W. Schenck

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom (2017) is a sleek and shiny illustrated novel from Bradley W. Schenck, one that pays homage to the much-venerated Golden Age of science fiction while slipping a fair amount of modern social commentary beneath the chromed and bubble-helmeted exterior, and imparting the lesson that a well-equipped backpack will get you through most situations. Also, slide rules are important. Get yourself one if you don’t have one already, and if you do have one, maybe get a backup. Apparently, you never know when it’ll come in handy.

Imagine if, whenever you wanted to look at a website on your computer or hand-held device, an actual person had to move a cable from one switchboard-port to another, as had to be done for telephone calls in the first half of the twentieth cen... Read More

Wicked Wonders: The wonder and magic in our lives

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Reposting to include new reviews by Bill and Jana.

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

In Wicked Wonders (2017), Ellen Klages has assembled an impressive collection of her short stories. Although almost all of these stories have been previously published (the sole exception is “Woodsmoke”), most of them appeared in anthologies and are unlikely to be familiar to most readers. These fourteen stories run the gamut from non-fiction (“The Scary Ham”) to straight fiction (“Hey, Presto,” “Household Management” and “Woodsmoke”) to science fiction and fantasy. They’re often bittersweet or wistful and frequently surreal; tales of ordinary lives in which the fantastical or unexpected element sneaks up and taps you on the shoulder, and when you turn around the world has shifted.

Several tales in Wicked ... Read More

Firebrand: Evil has many faces

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Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

Firebrand (2017) is the second of A.J. Hartley’s STEEPLEJACK series, following shortly after 2016’s Steeplejack and continuing the story of Anglet Sutonga, a young woman with a very strong sense of justice and a knack for finding herself in trouble. Firebrand builds on the events of Steeplejack, and as a result, this review will contain very mild spoilers for Steeplejack.

Firebrand takes places three months after Steeplejack’s ending, providi... Read More

Steeplejack: A good detective story blended with biting social commentary

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Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

I knew Steeplejack (2016) was a YA thriller/mystery before picking up my review copy, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as solidly-written and entertaining as I ultimately found it to be. A.J. Hartley has not only created a compelling heroine and a richly imaginative world, but also multiple schemes driving the plot which depend on (and drive) social unrest that strikes extremely close to home in places.

Our story begins in the glorious city of Bar-Selehm, a metropolis which is geographically and culturally reminiscent of Johannesburg, South Africa; white Feldesland colonialists inhabit the upper echelons of power, brown-skinned Lani perform menial labor and live on the outskirts of town, and dark-skinned Mahweni generally live in the surrounding ... Read More

The Boy on the Bridge: Interesting characters can’t rise above established tropes

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The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey

M.R. Carey’s 2014 novel, The Girl with All the Gifts, was lauded by both Terry and Ray for bringing new life to tired zombie-fiction tropes. The Boy on the Bridge (2017) occupies a prequel/companion/sequel position, in that most of this novel takes place before Melanie’s story, but a twenty-years-later epilogue swoops around and seems to pick up after The Girl with All the Gifts ended. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read that novel yet, but I’m familiar enough with the plot/events to recognize significant places and people like Beacon, Hotel Echo, Dr. Caldwell, and others as they’re mentioned.) Do not follow my ex... Read More

Anne Bonnie Vol. 1: The Journey Begins by Tim Yate

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Anne Bonnie Vol. 1: The Journey Begins by Tim Yates

Inspired by real historical pirates like Anne Bonnie, Mary Reed, and Calico Jack, Tim Yates has come up with a fantastical setting and story that will set your heart pounding with non-stop adventure. Anne Bonnie, Vol. 1: The Journey Begins is set in a fictional fantasy setting, complete with carousing pirates, rune-based magic, and a kingdom of elves, but the primary focus is on a high-spirited girl named Ariana and her quest to become as great a pirate as her heroine, the notorious pirate queen Anne Bonnie.

The story begins as a young Ariana watches a ship-to-ship battle from the safety ... Read More

The Sword of Summer: Rick Riordan goes Norse

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan, who has enthralled millions of readers with exciting tales of teenagers and their interactions with Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods and goddesses, turns to Norse mythology in his latest book, The Sword of Summer, published October 6, 2015.

Magnus Chase is sixteen years old and has been homeless for two years, since his mother died. Magnus remembers the door of their apartment splintering and wolves with glowing blue eyes bursting in as his mother shooed him out the fire escape. His mother had always told him to avoid his uncles, especially Uncle Randolph ― but Magnus runs into Randolph, who somehow convinces him to accompany him to retrieve an ancient sword from the waters below Longfellow Bridge in Boston. Magnus magically calls the... Read More

River of Teeth: Bear in mind, please, that this isn’t a caper

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River of Teeth
by Sarah Gailey

River of Teeth (2017) is Sarah Gailey’s first novella-length work, and if the idea of a gonzo queer alt-history hippo extravaganza doesn’t immediately set your imagination aflame, then perhaps rich character work and a thoroughly convincing atmosphere will do the trick. Beyond that, there’s a caper (which Mr. Winslow Remington Houndstooth would like everyone to know is an operation) and a whole lot of revenge to be had.

Let’s travel back in time, shall we? Back to America in the late 19th-century, when a portion of the lower Mississippi River was dammed off and given over to a terrifying population of feral hippos, the kind who enjoy noshing on a human’s viscera; a time when women and genderfluid individuals of various races had a little more equality with the white men around them; a time when ri... Read More

The Library at Mount Char: We all love it

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Ever wonder what might happen if a god went missing? The Library at Mount Char is Scott Hawkins’ fiction debut, and in my personal opinion, it is flawless. There are no wasted words, no unnecessary plot digressions, no moments in which a character says, “Wow, this crisis is important! We should respond right away!” and then tootles off to fold laundry for ten paragraphs. Each detail is crucial, even if the reader doesn’t realize it for a hundred pages or more, and the resulting novel feels enormous and expansive though the page count doesn’t hit 400.

Garrison Oaks was a lovely little slice of Virginian 1970s suburbia, where Adam Black roasted meats in an enormous metal bull and shared beer with his neighbors. Things changed, though, in one catacl... Read More

Skullsworn: Tight, tense, and sensual

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Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

I had a so-so reaction to The Emperor's Blades, the first book in Brian Staveley’s CHRONICLE OF THE UNHEWN THRONE trilogy, but he completely won me over with the second book, The Providence of Fire, and then brought me happily home with book three The Last Mortal Bond. So I was excited to see that his newest, Skullsworn, was set in the same universe and centered on Pyrre, one of the more intriguing characters in the trilogy thanks in... Read More

Robyn Bennis: My path to publication (win a copy of The Guns Above!)

Robyn Bennis’s debut novel is The Guns Above, which blends steampunk, airships, and some of the saltiest dialogue we’ve read so far this year. Marion and I agreed that it’s a tremendously fun book, and today Robyn stops by Fantasy Literature to talk about her path to publication and her abiding love of a classic sci-fi television series.

We’ve got one copy of The Guns Above to give away to a random commenter, too!

Robyn Bennis



My path to publication is the most exciting and unlikely story you'll ever hear. It is a tale of action, intrigue, guile, glorious successes, crushing setbacks, and even more intrigue. It all started on a cold winter day in New York City. Daring hail and freezing winds, I scaled the outside of the Flatiron Building,... Read More

Gwenda Bond chats with Jana about Lois Lane: Triple Threat (giveaway!)

Today I welcome Gwenda Bond for her third interview with Fantasy Literature. We're celebrating the release of Lois Lane: Triple Threat, which, in my review, I called “excellent,” “enjoyable,” and “sweetly awkward.” Today Ms. Bond provides insight into her writing process, the pressure of writing the perfect first date, and toasting Pele.

One random commenter with a U.S. mailing address will win a copy of Lois Lane: Triple Threat!

Jana Nyman: There’s a satisfying level of consistency across the books and short stories comprising your LOIS LANE series — not only with regard to events and character backgrounds, but also Lois’ narrative voice. When I’ve gone back and re-read Read More

The Guns Above: An airship captain and a dandy fop walk into a bar…

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The Guns Above
by Robyn Bennis

Robyn Bennis’ debut novel, The Guns Above (2017), is a fun blend of flintlock rifles, airships, military exercises, and wry commentary on both gender politics and “military intelligence.” There’s enough whip-smart dialogue to make any reader laugh out loud, and readers who are mechanically inclined will love the detailed descriptions of gears, flight tests, and ballast.

Josette Dupre is the first female airship captain in the Garnian Aerial Signal Corps, a promotion which may as well be a death warrant: her homeland, Garnia, is at war with the neighboring country of Vinzhalia over a contested bit of land, and her new rank comes with appointment to a “revolutionary new design” for airships — an appellation which generally signifies doom. Even worse, a ridiculous young aristocrat named Lord Bernat Hinkal... Read More

Lois Lane: Triple Threat: An excellent continuation of this series

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Lois Lane: Triple Threat
by Gwenda Bond

Gwenda Bond’s inimitable LOIS LANE series continues with Lois Lane: Triple Threat (2017), as old threats rear their myriad ugly heads and new experiences bring opportunities for stress, “sports ball,” and flowers. (Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense soon enough.) Each book in this series builds on the previous installments, so even though there’s enough exposition to keep previous events fresh in the reader’s mind, I heavily recommend reading them in chronological order.

Six months have passed since the events of Double Down, and Lois Lane is itching for a story; life in Metropolis has been boringly une... Read More

Within the Sanctuary of Wings: A fitting, if too-soon, conclusion

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Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

Bill Capossere: Plotting and pace have always been the sticking points for me in the MEMOIRS OF LADY TRENT series by Marie Brennan, the reasons why the individual books have never climbed above a four-star rating for me and have at times dipped to three and a half. But what has never flagged for me has been my appreciation of that wonderful narrative voice, that of Lady Trent herself. Voice is the reason I kept reading these novels, and voice is what has finally led me here to the fifth and supposedly final one, Within the Sanctuary of Wings (2017). And once again, I find that while issues of plot and pace raise their heads once more, I’m willing to (mostly) overlook them just to bask for perhaps the last time in that ar... Read More

SFM: Brennan, Edelstein, Kress, Sterling, Sobin, Grant

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




“From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review” by Marie Brennan (2016, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Have a little pity for the editors of the Falchester Weekly Review — when they published Mr. Benjamin Talbot’s news that he had recently come into po... Read More

In the Labyrinth of Drakes: Come for the dragons, stay for the voice

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In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth book in the MEMOIRS BY LADY TRENT series by Marie Brennan, and in terms of quality I’d place it just behind the second one, The Tropic of Serpents, which so far is my favorite. And if it has a few of the same issues that have detracted from prior books, as always, these are outweighed by the wonderful voice of the narrator, which is really the number one reason for picking up this series.

As has been the pattern, In the Labyrinth of Drakes sees Lady Trent looking back on a trip to yet another foreign setting in order to study the native dragon species. And again, as usual, other issues arise that complicate her endeavor. In this case, the setti... Read More

Voyage of the Basilisk: Science and curiosity

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Warning: Some inevitable spoilers for the previous novels, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, will follow.

Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2015) is the third in Marie Brennan’s series A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS, and I found it falling somewhere between books one and two in terms of the reading experiences (better than the first, but not quite as good as the second). As always in this series, the narrative voice is the strongest aspect and managed to (mostly) outweigh the book’s weaknesses.

Readers will most likely note the resemblanc... Read More

Blackout: If you think you’re fed up with zombies, make an exception

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Blackout  by Mira Grant

This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the NEWSFLESH trilogy, Feed and Deadline.

Mira Grant’s Blackout (2012) ends almost exactly where Deadline (2011) ended. Georgia — George — Mason has awakened to find that she has made a miraculous recovery from being shot in the brainstem, and without retinal Kellis-Amberlee (the virus that causes people to become zombies, named for the discoverer of a cure for the common cold and the discoverer of a cure for cancer, which combined with obviously horrible results; and a reservoir condition like retinal Kellis-Amberlee is one in which the virus is resident in a single organ, but the individual never amplifies to... Read More

Deadline: Couldn’t stop reading

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Deadline by Mira Grant

I advise against reading this review if you haven’t yet read Mira Grant’s Feed, the first volume in her Newsflesh trilogy, but intend to. The review necessarily contains spoilers, without which discussing the second volume, Deadline, would be impossible.

Deadline (2011) picks up several months after the end of Feed (2010). The first-person narrator, Shaun Mason, is not the same since the death of his sister by his hand, after she had been infected by the virus that causes one to become a zombie. Not only is he no longer an Irwin (a journalist who courts danger, usually by going out into the field to poke zombies with... Read More

Feed: One more zombie novel?

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Feed by Mira Grant

I have grown weary of zombies. In the past five years, everyone started writing zombie novels, apparently out of ennui at the thought of writing yet another variation on vampires, and that was good. But the mass of zombie material all seemed to hit the market at the same time, and it was too much, too undiluted, with too many books that weren’t good enough to be worth reading. Soon I was avoiding any book that purported to be about zombies, because, hey, enough already.

So when Mira Grant’s Feed came on the market, I was not inclined to read it, especially because it was published in that really annoying new taller and thinner paperback format — it’s less comfortable in the hand and it... Read More

Geekerella: Sweet and fluffy, but with a surprising depth

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Geekerella
by Ashley Poston

Ashley Poston’s debut novel Geekerella (2017) is definitely not just another Cinderella revision. Classic elements of the familiar story are all present in one shape or another, but Poston brings a distinctly nerd-friendly flair to her tale, and modernizes the characters in ways that turn impossible archetypes into accessible, complicated people.

Danielle “Elle” Wittimer lives with her stepmother and twin stepsisters in a crumbling old Charleston, SC house. Sadly, her mother died when Elle was just four years old, and her beloved father passed away shortly after remarrying, granting legal custody of both Elle and the home to his second wife. Catherine is, to put it nicely, a selfish social climber who spends money she doesn’t have on country club memberships for her daughters while forcing Elle to perform menia... Read More

Waking Gods: The sleeping giants have arisen

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Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods (2017) is the sequel to last year's breakout debut and Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Science Fiction, Sleeping Giants. In Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel introduced readers to Dr. Rose Franklin who, as a child, fell into a hole and discovered a giant metal hand. Driven by passion and destiny, she would grow up to identify, discover and put together the remaining pieces of a giant metal goddess, named by the discoverers, Themis.

(Note: this review contains some spoilers for THEMIS FILES #1, Sleeping Giants.)

Relative newcomer Neuvel is a rising st... Read More

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