Kat Hooper

KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

The Second Summoning: Just too silly

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The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Summon the Keeper.

I was entertained by Tanya Huff’s first KEEPER’S CHRONICLES novels, Summon the Keeper, about a woman named Claire whose job, as a Keeper, is to travel around closing evil holes in the fabric of the universe when they pop up around Canada and the US. In Summon the Keeper, Claire and her talking cat (Austin) were “summoned” to a bed & breakfast which was endangered by a portal to Hell that had opened in the furnace room. I liked the... Read More

Season of Storms: A WITCHER prequel

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Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

“The story goes on. The tale never ends.”

For those of us who can’t get enough of Geralt of Rivia (better known as The Witcher), Andrzej Sapkowski offers Season of Storms (2013 in Polish, 2018 in English), a stand-alone prequel novel. This would be a fine place to start for WITCHER newbies, though its story is not one of the better ones. I recommend starting with The Last Wish and coming back to Season of Storms once you’ve become a fan. I have a feeling that many WITCHER readers appreciate this novel more for its feelings of nostalgia than for the actual story... Read More

Summon the Keeper: Entertaining urban fantasy

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Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff’s KEEPER’S CHRONICLES is about a family of Keepers, descendants of Lilith who have the power to close up holes in the fabric of the universe that appear when evil things happen. Keepers get supernaturally summoned toward these holes, so they’re often on the go, traveling from place to place as they feel the pull of their summons.

Claire, a Canadian Keeper in her late 20s who travels with Austin, an elderly talking cat, has been summoned to a bed & breakfast called the Elysian Fields Guesthouse. When she arrives, the owner turns his establishment over to Claire and quickly bolts.

That’s because there’s an unconscious evil Keeper in room six, the place is haunted b... Read More

Arrow’s Fall: The end of Talia’s story

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Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow’s Fall (1988) is the third and final novel in the first trilogy of Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR saga (THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR). This trilogy features Talia, a girl who lived in a close-knit conservative rural area who was unexpectedly chosen as the Queen’s Own Herald. In Arrows of the Queen and Arrow’s Flight we watched Talia come to the heralds’ collegium, learn to be a herald, and go out on her first circuit of the kingdom. She has grown and matured in many ways since the beginning of her adventure.
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Chaos Choreography: This one is really fun

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Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire

This review will contain spoilers for the first two INCRYPTID books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.

Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series (which currently includes eight novels and numerous shorter works) follows the adventures of the Prices, a family who used to belong to the Covenant, a rigid group of monster-hunters whose mission it was to eradicate all supernatural creatures from the face of the planet. A couple generations back, ... Read More

Pocket Apocalypse: Alex goes to Australia and it’s not fun

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Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

Pocket Apocalypse (2015) is book four in Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series. You should probably read book three, Half-Off Ragnarok, before reading Pocket Apocalypse, but you don’t have to read the first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.

We met Alex Price, Verity’s big brother, in the previous INCRYPTID novel, Read More

Legend Has It: The best part is John’s snarky voice

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Legend Has It by Elliott James

Legend Has It (2017) is the fifth book in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA series. You really need to read the previous books, Charming, Daring, Fearless, and In Shining Armor first.

I love the way Elliott James recaps the story from the previous novels. Legend Has It begins with John Charming imagining being interviewed by Barbara Walters... Read More

Stories of the Raksura, Volume 2: More tales that enhance Wells’ world

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Stories of the Raksura, Volume 2: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below by Martha Wells

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for the RAKSURA novels.

Here is the second volume containing the novellas and short stories written by Martha Wells to accompany her BOOKS OF THE RAKSURA. I really enjoyed the first volume, Stories of the Raksura, Volume 1. I liked the tight and focused nature of the novellas and short stories and thought they were actually, for that reason, better than the novels.

Stories of the Raksura, Volume 2 (2015) contains:

The Dead City — (RAKSURA story #0.3, published in 2017, takes place before Read More

Half-Off Ragnarok: INCRYPTID gets a new POV

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Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series is a fun paranormal fantasy with a focus on monsters and romance. The first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, starred Verity Price, a ballroom dancer wannabe born into a famous family of monster hunters. The Price family were kicked out of the Covenant a couple generations back when their ancestors decided it was unethical to kill monsters indiscriminately. Now they (unlike the Covenant, who hates all non-humans) actually befriend and work with non-humans who they deem non-threatening t... Read More

Stories of the Raksura, Volume 1: Stories that deepen Wells’ world and characters

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Stories of the Raksura, Volume 1: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud by Martha Wells

Martha Wells has written several short stories and novellas set in the world of her BOOKS OF THE RAKSURA. They’ve been collected in two volumes called Stories of the Raksura and I’ve read both of these volumes. Volume 1, which collects the novellas The Falling World and The Tale of Indigo and Cloud as well as the short stories “The Forest Boy” and “Adaptation,” is the best of these and, in fact, I think these shorts were better than the novels, making Stories of the Raksura, Volume 1 my favorite RAKSURA book.

Here’s a description of each story in t... Read More

The Edge of Worlds: These books are getting repetitive

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The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells

Note: This review will contain spoilers for the previous RAKSURA books.

The Edge of Worlds (2016) is the fourth novel in Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA. This series has many dedicated fans. Its strengths are an exotic fantasy world filled with unusual species and gorgeous scenery, and a strong and loveable protagonist with a tragic past. The cover art is awesome, too.

In The Edge of Worlds, Moon is finally starting to settle in with his new clan. He feels secure with his consort, Jade, and he now understands why he was abandoned as a child. He has met his formidable mother and others from his birth court. He finally feels at home — he’s been accepted and ... Read More

The Siren Depths: Best book in the series so far

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The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

Book three in Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA is The Siren Depths (2012). (By the way, the novels’ titles are only vaguely related to the plot, I’ve noticed.) If you've loved this series so far, I feel certain that you will love The Siren Depths. In my opinion, it's better than both of the previous books (The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea).

Moon, a Raksura (shape-shifting human/dragon) who used to be a lost orphan, is finally starting to feel comfortable in his new home with the Indigo Cloud Rak... Read More

In Shining Armor: Great hero, loose plot

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In Shining Armor by Elliott James

The fourth book in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA series is In Shining Armor (2016). In this installment, someone has kidnapped baby Constance, the god-daughter of John Charming. She was being guarded by a team consisting of both Knights and werewolves, so now the Knights are blaming the werewolves and vice versa. This threatens to upset their recently established, but tentative, truce, and the results could be disastrous, especially for John Charming. It’s up to him and his strange group of allies to figure out what happened to Constance and, hopefully, get her back safely. Otherwise, a deadly supernatural war is likely to break out.

As John and his team investigate the kidnapping, they run into all sorts of mythical crea... Read More

An Unkindness of Ghosts: Impressive debut novel

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An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017), by Rivers Solomon, is a book that a lot of people will absolutely love unconditionally, a lot of people will love even as they hate reading large parts of it, and that will leave some people (cough cough this reviewer) a bit cold, which they will softly note while they keep their eyes down and move quietly for the exit. Despite falling into that last category, I’d still recommend Solomon’s debut novel for its stark depiction of a slave society that has too many echoes of our own world despite the sci-fi setting and for its diverse set of characters.

The novel is a generation ship story, with the premise that the society sent out into space on the ship Matilda was a slave-based one (or regressed to one, it’s not wholly explicit, though I believe it’s the former), with the u... Read More

The Serpent Sea: An exotic and beautiful fantasy world

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The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

The Serpent Sea (2012) is the second of Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA following The Cloud Roads which you’ll want to read first (this review will contain spoilers for The Cloud Roads).

In the previous book we met Moon, a solitary Raksura (a humanoid species that can shape-shift into a scaly flying dragon-like creature) who lost contact with his people when he was a baby and had no idea what he was. Trying to hide among other humans, he was discovered by a member of the Raksuran Indigo Cloud court and presented to their queen as a consort. The Cloud Roads describes Moon... Read More

American Gods: Mixed opinions

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is a bad land for Gods... The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing. Either you've been forgotten, or you're scared you're going to be rendered obsolete, or maybe you're just getting tired of existing on the whims of people.

Shadow, just out of prison and with nothing to go home to, is hired to be Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard as he travels around America to warn all the other incarnations of gods, legends, and myths, that “a storm is coming.” There's going to be a battle between the old gods who were brought to melting pot America by their faithful followers generations ago, and the new gods of technology, convenience, and individuality.

That's the premise of Read More

Winter Tide: Great premise, but it drags

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Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

I love the premise of Winter Tide. It's about a sister and brother (Aphra and Caleb Marsh) who were living in Innsmouth when it was invaded by the U.S. government in 1928 (a fictional town and event created by H.P. Lovecraft). The Marshes and their neighbors were descendants, and worshipers, of the Great Old Ones…. you know, like Dagon and Cthulhu. Paranoid, the government sent them to detention camps, keeping them there until the Japanese-Americans were released from the camps in 1946. Away from the ocean and their gods, only siblings Aphra and Caleb survived the experience.

Now the government wants their help. The cold war has begun and there is some intel suggesting the Russians are trying ... Read More

The Delirium Brief: The Laundry’s in big trouble

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The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

The Delirium Brief, which is a finalist for the 2018 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, is the eighth novel in Charles StrossLAUNDRY FILES. Don’t even bother with it if you haven’t read most of the previous novels — you’ll be totally lost. (And, of course, my review of this installment will contain some spoilers for the previous books.)

For decades the Laundry, a heretofore unknown British government agency, has been protecting its citizens (and others around the world) from the eldritch horrors that exist outside our universe. In modern times, the way these entities usually breach the veil between worlds is through the activities of unwitting hackers, mathematicians, and philosophers who start poking aro... Read More

Neverwhere: Wonderfully fantastical setting

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is a novel that improved dramatically for me on reread, which actually was a surprise to me. I originally read it about six years ago when, in an odd twist worthy of London Below, it mysteriously appeared one day on my clunky Kindle 2, without my having ordered it. About a month later it just as mysteriously disappeared again (luckily I had finished it just in time). I was fascinated by the marvelous and imaginative setting of Neverwhere and London Below, but only mildly entertained by the plot, which ― other than the beginning and the end ― I found quite forgettable.

Still, when I was offered the chance to read a 2016 edition of Neverwhere with the “author’s preferred text” and illustrations by Chri... Read More

SFM: 2018 Locus Award finalists

Today's Short Fiction Monday column features all of the 2018 Locus Award finalists for short fiction. The Locus Award winners will be announced by Connie Willis during Locus Award weekend, June 22 - June 24, 2018.

NOVELLAS:

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle (2017)

Claudio, a middle-aged curmudgeonly farmer living in a remote area of the Italian countryside, has been a standoffish loner since his wife left him decades ago. He’s satisfied with his current lifestyle, taking care of his land and his animals, and writing poetry that he shares with no one.

Everything changes one morning when a unicorn shows up on his farm. The pure and beautiful unicorn inspires C... Read More

Fearless: John Charming joins a fight club

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Fearless by Elliott James

Fearless is the third novel in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA saga (following Charming and Daring). John and Sig are back together working to protect Kevin Kichida, a young man with some magical blood in his heritage who’s being hunted by a greedy ancestor.

The investigation leads John and his supernatural friends to a fight club where they go undercover (as fighters) to get close to their suspect. John acquires (or perhaps simply recognizes and practices) some new supernatural skills in this installment.

The plot of Fearless 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 learns more about both groups, he uncovers a plot that endangers the Pa... 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

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

Catseye: Another otherworldly adventure by Andre Norton

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Catseye by Andre Norton

Andre Norton’s novels are always a good option when you’re in the mood for an exciting, fast-paced, imaginative, and family-friendly adventure story. This one stars Troy Horan, a young man who lives hand-to-mouth in a ghetto called The Dipple on the luxury planet of Korwar. He’s a refugee from his home planet of Norton which has now been commandeered as a military outpost. Back home, his family were herders and his father, at least, seemed to have some sort of empathetic bond with the animals he cared for. Troy, being young when he was on Norton, isn’t quite certain about the nature of that bond.

When Troy gets an unexpected job offer from the owner of an exotic pet emporium, Troy realizes that his heritage may be an advantage. On his first day of work, Troy indeed f... Read More

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