Katie Burton

KATIE BURTON, who joined us in September 2015, is a solicitor in London and now an aspiring journalist. She was lucky enough to be showered with books as a child and from the moment she had The Hobbit read to her as a bedtime story was hooked on all things other-worldy. Katie believes that characters are always best when they are believable and complex (even when they aren't human) and is a sucker for a tortured soul or a loveable rogue. She loves all things magical and the more fairies, goblins and mystical creatures the better. Her personal blog is Nothing if Not a Hypocrite.

SFM: Bowes, de Bodard, Larson, Yoachim

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few excellent stories, including three more from the current crop of Nebula and Hugo award nominees. 

Dirty Old Town by Richard Bowes (2017, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, May/June 2017 issue; PDF is temporarily free here, courtesy of F&SF). 2018 Nebula award nominee (novelette)

Richard Bowes is no stranger to semi-autobiographical work. He returns to that for... Read More

SFM: Prasad, Wahls, Pinsker, Dick, Kressel

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Several 2018 Nebula short fiction nominees are reviewed in today's column.

A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2017, free at Clarkesworld, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue). 2018 Nebula award nominee (novelette)

In this near-future SF novelette, 3-D printing has become so advanced that a “bioprinter” can mass-produce copies of food. In any criminal forgery case, the best forgeries are the ones that never get noticed, and Helena Li Yuanhui of Splendid Beef Enterprises, a one-woman business in Nanjing, China, is an expert at it. She keeps her business small and the quality of her gray market meat forger... Read More

La Belle Sauvage: A companion to HIS DARK MATERIALS

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Reposting to include Katie's new review.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

I always find it a little nerve-wracking when an author returns to a successful series after a long time away. There's always the fear, for me at least, that one of two things is going to happen: either the author will be nostalgic about the original work to the extent that s/he makes the new book into a fawning tribute without substance, or the author will have changed enough in the time between installments that the magic is just gone. I'm happy to say, though, that Philip Pullman's new novel dispels both of those fears. La Belle Sauvage (2017) is, though not quite as much a game-changer as Read More

Verdigris Deep: Be careful what you wish for

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Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge

A glance back at former reviews of Frances Hardinge’s work reveals that I have overused the word “weird.” Hardly the nicest word, and yet I meant it as a compliment. It’s a testament to my struggle to pinpoint what it is that makes Hardinge’s books stand out. Nevertheless, stand out they do.

Verdigris Deep (2008) is a weird book and, once again, that’s meant as a compliment. Ryan, Josh and Chelle get stranded in a forbidden village when they miss their bus home. Finding they have no money for the next bus they resort to pinching coins from an old wishing well hidden in the wood. What they don’t know is that the well is inhabited by an angry well spirit who doesn't react well to having her coins stolen. ... Read More

2018 Books We Can’t Wait For!

Here are some of the books we can't wait for in 2018!

Hover over the covers to see what our reviewers said about each book.

Which books are you looking forward to in 2018? One commenter wins a book from our stacks. Read More

A Taste of Honey: An unusual and fascinating world

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Another 2016 Nebula nominee today, this time for best Novella. A Taste of Honey (2016) is set in the same world as a previous work by Kai Ashante Wilson, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, which I confess I have not read (it’s not necessary for the understanding of this story, though it may provide some useful background to the setting and its institutions).

At its heart, A Taste of Honey is a love story between two men from different lands — wealthy nobleman, Aqib, from Olorum (where the story is set), and battle-hardened warrior... Read More

The Power: Simple concept, compelling read

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Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

One thing’s for sure, The Power (2016 in the UK, Oct 2017 in the US) demands attention. Margaret Atwood has given it her blessing and I’ll eat my hat if The Power doesn’t have its own Netflix series sometime soon. Naomi Alderman could well be the next big name in subversive, feminist fiction.

The Power asks — what would happen if all women could physically dominate men? Over five years, Alderman answers that question and the answer is explosive, bloody, wild and thought-provoking.

One day, across the globe, fifteen-year-old girls realise they have electrical power in their fingertips. For some of them it... Read More

SFM: Tobler, Cadigan, Foster, Tidhar

Merry Christmas from Short Fiction Monday: Our column today focuses on Christmas and winter-themed stories. Enjoy!


"Every Winter" by E. Catherine Tobler (2016, free at Apex magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

As soon as I finished “Every Winter” I went right back to the top and started re-reading. It wasn't because I enjoyed the reading experience (though I did) but because I was intrigued by things I'd missed ― all the signs that suggest that the villa in the story is no... Read More

The Bird’s Child: Beauty and brutality, magic and illusion

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The Bird’s Child by Sandra Leigh Price

There’s something to be said for seeking out authors from more unfamiliar places, especially when experiencing a dry phase in which nothing read quite hits the mark. The experience can be illuminating and so it was with The Bird’s Child, a 2015 debut novel by Australian author Sandra Leigh Price.

The Bird’s Child tells the story of three people living in Sydney in 1929, all with pasts they’d rather forget. There’s Ari, a young Jewish man, victim of a pogrom, who lives with his zealous uncle but dreams forbidden dreams of Houdini and magic. There’s Lily, a mysteriously beautiful young woman whose pale skin and hair have the power to bewitch those around her. And finally there’s Billy, haunted and dangerous, determined to have whatever and whoever he wants.
Read More

SFM: Gregory, Roanhorse, Vernon, Mamatas & Pratt, Clarke, Lowachee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly 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.

“Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (2005, free in print and audio at Clarkesworld, November 2017 issue; originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2005 issue)

I love what Daryl Gregory does with drugs. “Second Person, Present Tense” is about the parents of a girl who died after overdosing on a drug called “Zen” or “Zombie.” Unable to cope with their loss, they latch on to a homeless girl (our narrator) who they hope will come live with them a... Read More

Daughter of the Empire: Life on the other side of the rift

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Reposting to include Kat's new review.

Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts

THE EMPIRE CYCLE is the second trilogy set in Raymond E. Feist’s (and in this case Janny Wurts’) Riftwar universe. Readers of the RIFTWAR SAGA (the first trilogy by publication date) will know all about the world of Midkemia and its war with the otherworldly Kelewan. Daughter of the Empire (1987) takes place entirely in Kelewan and so offers a new insight into the Riftwar universe, from the other side of the rift. Readers familiar with the earlier works will enjoy spotting the veiled references to familia... Read More

A Skinful of Shadows: Weird but not weird enough

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A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Here in the UK, Frances Hardinge is everywhere. Her new book, A Skinful of Shadows (2017), was plastered all over the London underground in the run-up to its publication, thrusting Hardinge into the mainstream.

I heard Hardinge talk about A Skinful of Shadows at a local bookshop and she admitted that she’d felt some pressure when writing. I can’t help wonder if this pressure somehow seeped into the novel as she wrote.

Like all of her books, A Skinful of Shadows is an adventure. There’s a plucky heroine, plenty of ghastly enemies and best of all, murderous ghosts. But the story lacked the orig... Read More

Like Water for Chocolate: Recipes and romance

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Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

A bit of classic magical realism today. First published in 1989 in installments, Like Water for Chocolate was a bestseller in Laura Esquivel’s native Mexico and subsequently around the world. A popular film version earned the story a place in yet more hearts (if you are tempted to watch it, don’t watch the version with the English voice-over, stick with the Spanish). The story is a heady combination of love, passion, family drama, food, recipes, and magic, all set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution.

Tita is the youngest member of the De La Garza family, destined never to marry but to serve her domineering mother, Mama Elena, until the end of her days. In the face of her mother’s tyranny Tita seeks solace in the family’s cook, the kind and supremely talented Nacha, who passes on her re... Read More

Spellslinger: Lots of spells, lots of slinging

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Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

Spellslinger sounded right up my street — a young adult novel full of magic, cons, card tricks and a plucky underdog. If it didn’t live up to my high hopes I blame the misleading words emblazoned on the back cover that read “Magic Is A Con” — an enticing promise that isn’t delivered because, well, magic turns out not to be a con. Nevertheless, while it wasn’t the story I expected, Spellslinger is an enjoyable romp in its own way.

Kellen and his class-mates are all set to complete the trials that will secure their future as “Jan’tep” — a magical people who wield five pillars of magic — breath, iron, silk, blood, ember and sand. If they fail the trials they will be forced to live out their lives as “Sha’tep”, an under-class destined to serve through manual labour. The only ... Read More

SFM: Wahls, Jemisin, Gaiman, Coen, Pi

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 you to know about. It's an outstanding group this week!

“Utopia, LOL?” by Jamie Wahls (June 2017, free on Strange Horizons)

Charlie Wilcox, after uncounted centuries of cryogenic frozenness, is decanted in a distant future. He’s cheerfully helped to adjust by an extremely ditzy person named Kit/dinaround, who is the assistant of the AI known as the Allocator, which watches over and guides humanity. Through a temporary upload station, Kit shows Charlie the ropes of their virtual society, which humans (who now number in the trillions) experience solely as digital entities, “uploaded consciousnesses in distributed Matryoshka brains.” It’s an immense, and immensely complex, Matrix type of w... Read More

SFM: Buckell, Krasnoff, Miller, Herbert

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, including some nominees for the 2016 Nebula award.

“A Militant Peace” by Tobias Buckell (2014, $2.62 at Audible)

“No nation has ever seen an invasion force like this.”Tobias Buckell’s short story “A Militant Peace” was published in Mitigated Futures, a collection of tales dealing with “the future of war, our climate, and technology’s effects on our lives.” Buckell’s story, as you can probably tell by the title, is about the future of war and I thought it was fascina... Read More

SPFBO Final Round Reviews part 2

In Mark Lawrence‘s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, ten SFF review blogs joined forces to read 300 self-published fantasy novels. Each blog read ten books and chose one to advance to the top ten. The book that we advanced was Kaitlyn Davis‘s The Shadow Soul (here’s our review) and we gave it a score of 5 out of 10 on Lawrence’s scale. We reviewed four of the finalists back in March and this post contains our last batch of reviews. Thanks for joining us on this quest, and thanks to Mark Lawrence for such a fun contest! We'd like to congratulate the winning book: Read More

The Girl of Ink and Stars: A pretty debut that cries out for a little more

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The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Girl of Ink and Stars (2016; published in the U.S. as The Cartographer’s Daughter) is Kiran Millwood Hargrave's debut novel. It tells the story of Isabella, a girl of 13, who lives with her father (Da) and her chicken (Miss La) on the island of Joya. Though Da was once a cartographer who travelled the globe making maps, Joya is now under the control of the despotic Governor Adori and all travel is forbidden. What's more, only part of the island is accessible while the "Forbidden Territories" are cut-off by forest and populated by the "banished". Isabella and her Da can only connect to the outside world through the exquisite maps for which they share a passion, passed down from father to daughter.

One day, Isabella's life is thrown into adventure when a girl in h... Read More

SFM: Santos, Palwick, El-Mohtar, Lechler

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. 


“In the Shade of the Pixie Tree” by Rodello Santos (March 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

On a sunny springtime day, 14 year old Bekka, the apprentice of a wicker witch, has been sent to the pixie-orchard to pick some new pixies for the witch (the “unripe ones still on the trees, not those flitting to and fro with the wind”). On her way to the orchard she’s stopped by Joakem, a village youth... Read More

All the Birds in the Sky: A likeable fable about magic and science

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Reposting to include Katie's new review.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders, is a likeable book. The writing is fluent, filled with grace notes, witty observations and jokes that poke fun, but gently, at certain subcultures and stereotypes — mostly, the ones we all enjoy mocking from time to time.

Furthermore, in her Afterword, Anders says that if you don’t understand the story, she will come to your house and “act the whole thing out for you. Maybe with origami finger puppets.” So there’s that.

All the Birds in the Sky is one of small, newish category of fiction, one I don’t have a label for. It includes Robin Sloan’s Mr. ... Read More

Caraval: Remember, it’s only a game

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Reposting to include Ray's new review.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I was so excited by the premise of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval (2017) that I listed it as one of my most anticipated books of 2017. Word has it that there are already plans to make Caraval into a film and I expect it is going to get a fair amount of hype. I can understand why and yet I find I cannot give it more than three stars. I will attempt to justify the reasons why.

Scarlett spent her childhood dreaming of the magical show called Caraval and its mysterious proprietor, Master Legend. Over the course of ten years she write him letters, begging him and his players to come to the small island where she lives with her sister, Tella, and her oppressive, violent father. Now grown-up and engaged to be married, Scarlett finally rece... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Why do people hate fantasy… but still love Harry Potter?

Bestselling author Kazuo Ishiguro isn’t known for writing fantasy, so when his novel The Buried Giant featured, among other surprising things, ogres, it caused quite a stir. Ishiguro commented on the reaction:

“I was slightly shocked by the level of prejudice, sheer prejudice, against ogres ... I couldn't understand it. It’s just another imaginary thing, like any other imaginary thing.”

Well Mr Ishiguro, I share your perplexity. Among my friends I am the only one who openly admits to a preference ... Read More

SFM: Chiang, Liu, Sanderson, Kinney, Seybold

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


“Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (1998, originally anthologized in Starlight 2, reprinted in Stories of Your Life and Others). 2000 Nebula award winner (novella) and 1999 Sturgeon award winner.

Being more of a fantasy lover than a sci-fi fan, I still hadn’t read the short-story superstar Ted Chiang. Keen to see what I’ve been missing, and possibly throwing myself in at the deep end, I read “Story of Your Life.” Boy,... Read More

The Halloween Tree: The best history lesson you’ll ever have

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Reposting to include Jason's new review.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small part of a Midwest state. There wasn’t so much wilderness around you couldn’t see the town. But on the other hand there wasn’t so much town you couldn’t see and feel and touch and smell the wilderness. 

So reads the charming first sentence of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. A perfectly gothic yarn that seeks, through the hop skip and jump adventure of a group of young boys and their sinister guide, to convey the true meaning of Halloween.

It is Halloween night and Tom Skelton and his group of boys are dressed up and ready for adventure. Leaving their poorly friend P... Read More

SFM: Larson, Barnhill, Jones, Levine, Marzioli, Lee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of free short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories that caught our attention this week. 



“Masked” by Rich Larson (July 2016, free at Apex, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue. Originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction)
It’s been a whole month since anyone’s seen Vera, and the circumstances of us finally seeing her this weekend are going to be ultra grody-odd, so I deliberate forever doing my Face. In the end I decide to go subtle: an airbrushed conglom o... Read More

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