John Hulet (RETIRED)

JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

Dark Fantasy Meets Real-Life Disease: What I Learned from Cancer about Writing, and Vice Versa

Today, we welcome Tom Doyle, the author of a contemporary fantasy trilogy from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician-soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil -- and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America's past. The final book of the trilogy, War and Craft, was just released September 26th. (It's near the top of my TBR list.)

Tom Doyle writes in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stori... Read More

Treachery’s Tools: Satisfying for a fan of the series

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Treachery’s Tools by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

It’s always a surprise when a fantasy novel can carry real meaning in depicting modern issues. Things like pride, avarice and jealousy that can be pervasive in certain segments of the social structure of a modern world can be so powerfully demonstrated when people use swords and magic to actually kill each. L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s Treachery’s Tools was able to provoke those comparisons for me.

When last we left Alastar he had successfully stood off a revolt by High Holders against the Rex of Solidar and the attempted obliteration of the Imager’s Collegium. While many of the participants in this violent confrontation paid with their lives, some managed to avoid paying the ultimate price and slunk into exile. One might have hoped... Read More

Last First Snow: Another enjoyable installment in THE CRAFT SEQUENCE

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Last First Snow by Max Gladstone

I will admit upfront that it took me quite a while to get through Last First Snow, the fourth book in Max Gladstone’s CRAFT SEQUENCE, which would seem weird considering how much I enjoyed the other books in the series. At this point, I am just very glad that I did read it. Gladstone may have taken a while to capture my interest, but by the end of the story, I was reminded why I like his work so much.

To begin with, the story in Last First Snow takes place before Two Serpents Rise and happens to be set in the same city, Dresediel Lex, and has characters that carry over from the future into the past. It feels that way because we read about them in the future and now we... Read More

Three Parts Dead: A wonderfully inventive story

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Reposting to include Marion's new review:

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead is a wonderfully inventive story. Max Gladstone blends a plethora of ideas, ranging from vampires to magic to steampunk technology and adds interesting characters and a plot that is predictable but still enjoyable. The result is memorable.

Tara is a recently expelled student in the art of the Craft. A Craftsman or Craftswoman is the equivalent of a magician or sorcerer, someone who has learned how to use the energies of the world to do things that would otherwise be impossible. Tara’s fall from the Hidden Schools — think of a floating university for sorcerers — was both literal and logical: she had to fight her way out of the school before being physically dropped from its heights. Tara’s story is central to the book as sh... Read More

Bone Crossed: Mercy doesn’t cry mercy

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review:

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

In Bone Crossed, the fourth installment in the Mercedes Thompson series, Mercy is learning to cope with her new role as the mate of the local werewolf pack while still suffering the effects of a horrific assault that occurred at the climax of Iron Kissed. Complications from inter-species conflicts remain a central theme, and her relationship challenges don’t simply fade away, but Mercy Thompson does not cry mercy.

Patricia Briggs keeps the story moving, introducing new plot elements which require Mercy to constantly re-evaluate and adjust. Another author might wave a magic wand and make things all better for Mercy, but Briggs doesn’t, and my respect for her writing deepe... Read More

Iron Kissed: This story keeps getting better

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Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs, who has explored werewolf and vampire societies in the first two volumes of her MERCY THOMPSON urban fantasy series, turns her attention to fae society in this third volume. In the second volume, Blood Bound, Mercy had been lent a powerful knife, a fae treasure, by Zee, her former boss and a fae, to kill a demon-ridden vampire. When Mercy used the knife for an additional and very much unauthorized purpose, she knew there would be consequences and that she would need to repay the favor in some way. It turns out that owing a favor to one of the fae is pretty much as dangerous as owing a favor to a vampire.

Like the werewolves, the fae have been gradually disclosing their existence and some of their members to humanity, based on the theory that with the ever-increasing sophistication of technology, hum... Read More

Moon Called: A vulnerable, believable urban fantasy heroine

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Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is an anomaly: a female automobile mechanic who owns her own shop, half Native American, and ― in a world with werewolves, vampires, fae and other supernatural beings ― she is one of a very few “walkers,” or skinwalkers, able to easily shapeshift into a coyote at will, without regard to phases of the moon. When Mercy surprised her human mother by turning into a coyote pup when she was three months old, her mother, not knowing what else to do, turned her over to be raised by a werewolf pack. Mercy left the pack as a teenager, but still is watched over by the werewolves, particularly Adam Hauptman, the alpha werewolf who shares her back fence line and with whom she has a sometimes uneasy alliance. Their relationship is a confusing mix of attraction and, on Mercy’s side, bravado tinged with fear that the alpha werewolf will override her free will and ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Tom Doyle wonders about secret mages

Tom Doyle blends historical fiction and urban fantasy in his AMERICAN CRAFT series. I loved his first bookAmerican Craftsmen and can't wait to read his newest offering, The Left-Hand Way. Tom's here today to talk about secret mages and to give away a copy of The Left-Hand Way to one commenter.

My AMERICAN CRAFT series is about the adventures and intrigues of modern-day magician-soldiers, or craftsmen. While their abilities are clearly supernatural, they are also things that could go largely unnoticed by non-practitioners: a favorable alteration in the local weather, a bit of edge in combat skills, a vision of a possible future. For the backstory of the craftspeople, I’ve imagined that their ancestors have been secretly intervening in world events since prehistoric times.

Thus, during the past ... Read More

Madness in Solidar: Bleak

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Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt Jr

THE IMAGER PORTFOLIO has hopped all around the chronological history Solidar, from the very beginning when Imagers were feared and forced to hide or else be killed or enslaved, to the very end when they are a powerful arm of the government. Madness in Solidar falls in the middle and is one of the bleaker installments in Modesitt’s series. You need to have read the previous eight books before picking up Madness in Solidar. Understanding the plot of this book depends on knowing a lot of previous history in the series.

Alastar has recently taken over the Collegium as the Maitre d'Image. He grew up outside the capital, but, after the death of the last Maitre, he succeeded to the leadership of all the Imagers. It's a difficult job at the best of times, but for Alastar ... Read More

When the Heavens Fall: Mixed reviews

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When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

I was once in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign where the Dungeon Master, a good friend of mine, had grown weary of my bard’s prowess and so decided to try his damnedest to kill him. And so my group eventually ended up inside a large spinning room with a multitude of doors, through which exited a succession of various angry creatures, singly or in large groups. It was fight, momentary rest, fight, momentary rest, fight, mome-, well, you get the idea. That night came back to me while reading Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall, which like my group’s experience in that campaign had a good amount of travel, lots of random fighting, and not much character development, though to be honest, I had more fun with the D & D.

The precipitating event in Wh... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: What’s the best book you read last month?

It's the first Thursday of the month. You know what that means. Time to report!

What is the best book you read in February 2015 and why did you love it? It doesn't have to be a newly published book, or even SFF. We just want to share some great reading material. Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.

(And don't forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our Fanlit Faves page and our 5-Star SFF page. And we've also got a constantly updating list of new and forthcoming releases.)

As always, one commenter will choose a book from Read More

The Magicians’ Guild: A simple but engaging story of class conflict

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The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan
The first installment of Trudi Canavan’s THE BLACK MAGICIAN trilogy, The Magicians’ Guild is the story of a young girl, Sonea, who discovers that she possesses magical abilities. As a lower class street girl living in the slums of the imaginary city of Imardin with her aunt and uncle, Sonea’s life has been one of destitution and hatred of the city’s snobbish upper class. Every year, the magicians of Imardin hold a Purge, during which they sweep the streets of Imardin in an attempt to eliminate beggars and vagabonds. Unsurprisingly, the masses of Imardin have never been particularly taken up with the idea, so one day, Sonea, burning with loathing of the Magicians’ Guild, throws a rock at a thaumaturge. Protected by magical shields, the magicians... Read More

Deadeye: Entertaining, but not too innovative

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Deadeye by William C. Dietz

Deadeye
is a new novel, the first in THE MUTANT FILES series by William C. Dietz. After reading some of Dietz’s LEGION OF THE DAMNED books I was more than curious about what his work in a different genre would be like. Deadeye feels like a post-apocalyptic zombie novel mixed with a police investigation novel: everyone is still some version of human and the hero is a police detective.

Cassandra Lee is a detective working in a special division of the Los Angeles police department. She is the child of a cop and comes with all the trappings of a typical heroine. Basically, she’s deadly, ultra-intelligent and very, very good at what she does. She is honestly nothing new, but D... Read More

Half a King: A new series for Abercrombie

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

What happens when you are born crippled in a medieval world? What if your physical impairment is sufficient to leave you always at a disadvantage to others? How do you survive? In Half a King, the first book of Joe Abercrombie’s SHATTERED SEA series, those questions are answered in exciting and realistic ways.

Yarvi is a Prince of the ruling family of Gettland, one of the nations that surround the Shattered Sea. He has found his niche studying to become a Minister, a quasi-monk adviser to the ruler. His brilliant mind makes up for the half-formed arm and hand that he was born with. As the son of King Uthrik and with a strong, physically capable older brother, Yarvi won’t need to rely on the traditional sources of martial prowess to survive.

When King Uthrik is killed and his heir... Read More

To Honor You Call Us: Surprisingly good military science fiction

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To Honor You Call Us by H. Paul Honsinger

The term “military science fiction” has, at times, been misused. The military part of the science fiction gets lost, and in essence you have something that loosely approximates combat in the future. To Honor You Call Us, book one of H. Paul Honsinger’s MAN OF WAR series, is not cut from that cloth and it was almost shockingly good.

Max Robichaux is a young Union Space Navy Lieutenant with a history. He’s made mistakes in the past, both in terms of his military career and some extracurricular activities. The great thing about Max is that he is not afraid to fight and take chances. The bad thing about Max is that he is willing to take chances.

The human race is engaged in a war with an alien species known as the Krag, a zealot race determined to exterminate us because of an insult to... Read More

Stop Pissing on the Floor; the Challenge of the Second Book

Welcome to Brian Staveley, who's on a blog tour for his second book, The Providence of Fire which I am greatly enjoying at this very moment. It's outstanding! (I loved the first book, too.) Fittingly, he's here to talk about the challenge of writing a sequel to a successful debut, and to ask you about sequels that you've enjoyed. One commenter will win a copy of both The Emperor's Blades and The Providence of Fire. You don't want to miss these books!

Stop Pissing on the Floor; the Challenge of the Second Book 
by Brian Staveley

When I was teaching high school, I had a good friend, also a teacher, who used to say, “The first day of school is great; even if you just come in and piss on the floor, the class will b... Read More

The Bishop’s Heir: King Kelson must squash a rebellion

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The Bishop’s Heir by Katherine Kurtz

The Bishop’s Heir is the first book in Katherine Kurtz’s trilogy called THE HISTORIES OF KING KELSON but it’s a direct sequel to High Deryni, the third book in her CHRONICLES OF DERYNI trilogy. (Did you get that?) To get the most out of The Bishop’s Heir, you really need to read THE CHRONICLES OF DERYNI first. This review of The Bishop’s Heir will contain a couple of spoilers for the original trilogy.

King Kelson’s battle with the church is over... or so he thinks. Archbishop Loris, the man responsible for the Church’s persecution of the Deryni and for the excommunication of Morgan and Duncan, Kelson’s trusted advisors, has been sent to live out the rest of his life in confinement.... Read More

Andromeda’s Fall: Begins a LEGION OF THE DAMNED prequel trilogy

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Andromeda's Fall by William C. Dietz

Andromeda's Fall is the start of a new prequel trilogy related to William C. Dietz’s LEGION OF THE DAMNED and it’s a fine place for someone to enter this good military science fiction series.

Catherine Carletto is Empire nobility. Her family is incredibly powerful and wealthy and Catherine is on a sort of debutante tour after finishing college. She's pretty, she's rich and so everyone on the planets she visits wants to meet her. In the midst of a social event she is attacked by a Synth, a sort of highly advanced robot. Cat manages to evade the Synth, but in the process many people are killed and she gets wounded as well. Fortunately for Cat, her family and education have not left her without skills to survive.

After running for her life through a strange city, Cat realizes that serious reso... Read More

Vacant: My least favorite book in my current favorite urban fantasy series

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Vacant by Alex Hughes

Vacant is the fourth book in Alex Hughes’ MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS. I absolutely loved the first three books, Clean, Sharp, and Marked (read my reviews) and this has been my favorite series for the past couple of years. Marked was my favorite book of 2013. However, I didn’t like Vacant as well and I hope (and expect) that this is just a minor setback in the series.

The most compelling element of the MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS series for me is all about the main character, Adam, and his fight with addiction. It is visceral and written so well that I can almost feel Adam’s pain as he craves something he ... Read More

Heritage of Cyador: Follows the pattern

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Heritage of Cyador by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Heritage of Cyador is the eighteenth book in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s SAGA OF RECLUCE and is the immediate sequel to Cyador's Heirs. It continues the story of Lerial, the second son of the Duke of Cigoerne. This is a typical Modesitt novel, which means it follows the pattern of having different political parties wrangling back and forth with each other until a hero is forced to use his magical skills in some unique and unexpected way to save the day. It's formulaic to be sure, but if you happen to like this pattern, you will enjoy the story.

The continent of Hamor is comprised of competing nation-states. The different rulers are often misled into equating their own ego and lust for power with what is best for their nation. The result is a constant state of at least mino... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Gratitude, by Alex Hughes

Today we're participating in a blog tour and scavenger hunt to promote Alex Hughes'  new novel Vacant, book four in her MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS series. This is my current favorite urban fantasy series. There are two chances to be a winner (you can try for both):

1. We're giving away an ebook copy of any of the novels -- your choice. Just comment below to enter the giveaway.

2. In the following post, you'll find the next clue in a "CLUE-like" scavenger hunt. To win, you have to solve a whodunit mystery. You can find the rules and information you need for that here at Alex's blog. The winner of the scavenger hunt gets a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble, a signed copy of Marked, ... Read More

Drawn Blades: Solid fifth book

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Drawn Blades by Kelly McCullough

Drawn Blades is the fifth book in Kelly McCullough’s FALLEN BLADE series. This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

Aral Kingslayer has finally emerged from his mental paralysis after the death of his Goddess, Namara. It has taken eight years, a lot of alcohol and the death of some friends for Aral to reach this point. With a new-found set of ideals, Aral is ready to start making a difference.

Siri Mythkiller was the First Blade of the order of Namara before its fall. Her talents in the arts of the assassin were top shelf, but her ability in magic had taken her to pinnacles others could match. After she is assigned the task to kill a powerful quasi God who has been imprisoned for many years, she finds herself gradually being possessed more and more by The Smoldering Flame. When Si... Read More

Full Fathom Five: Gladstone’s world is new and wildly different

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Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

With each book in THE CRAFT SEQUENCE series I feel more and more out of joint, but intrigued at the same time. Max Gladstone continues to play with concepts like gods and souls in ways that feel very familiar and completely alien all at once. Throw in a lot of reverse gender and religious stereotypes and the world this series depicts is something new and wildly different.

Kai is a priestess working for the ruling order/corporation on the island of Kavekana. The whole feel of the island is very Polynesian for me, but Gladstone doesn’t really say it. I felt like I was in a major city on a Hawaiian island with a huge volcano looming over the city, not threatening, but a very real presence and reminder of the power it contains.

The original Gods/Godesses of Kavekana left the island long ago to fight in the wars of gods and d... Read More

Tainted Blood: Fortitude is getting soft

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Tainted Blood by M.L. Brennan

Book three of M.L. Brennan’s GENERATION V series and Fortitude Scott is starting to annoy me. Why? Because Fort’s progressive, do-gooder attitudes are eventually going to get a lot of people killed if he keeps siding with groups other than his family.

After the big conflict with the Elves (Ad-Hene) that led to Prudence, his older sister, trying to force his final transition to becoming a full vampire, Fortitude has been taking on more and more responsibility within the family business. It's truly like a mafia family, but instead of managing drugs, prostitution and robbery, they are controlling other supernatural races who live with permission in Fort's mother's territory. The challenge for Fortitude is that he seems to have taken in the brain-washing of socially progressive Ivy League graduates who want to pretend that everyone is actual... Read More

Imperfect Sword: A wonderful action-packed installment

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Imperfect Sword by Jack Campbell

After the last book in Jack Campbell’s THE LOST STARS series, I was really almost dreading Imperfect Sword. I felt like Campbell had lost touch with the meaning of Military Science Fiction and was wandering in the land of Science Fiction Romance. Well, fortunately I have been rebuked; with Imperfect Sword, Campbell delivers a wonderful action-packed installment and restores my belief in him as an author who knows when to blow something up with a plasma cannon or take someone down with a sharp knife in the dark. 

General Drakon and President Iceni have been up to their necks in intrigue since they broke with the Syndicate Worlds. Through a very, very fortunate series of interactions with Admiral Jack Geary, the hero of the LOST FLEET series, t... Read More

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