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.

Chocolat: Pure indulgence and a hint of magic

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Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I love stories that feature outright magic, fantastical worlds and mythical creatures — but sometimes all it takes is a tiny dabble of enchantment to turn a story into something really special. That’s what Joanne Harris achieves with her bestseller, Chocolat, a timeless story about love, motherhood and, best of all, chocolate.

Chocolat takes place in the picturesque, fictional village of Lansquenet Sous Tannes in France. Vianne and her young daughter Anouk arrive with the wind on the day of the annual carnival. To their surprise, something about Lansquenet whispers at them to stay. They rent a tiny shop in the square, opposite the village’s only church, and set about turning it into a chocolaterie.

V... Read More

The Illustrated Man: Grim but touching stories

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Reposting to include Katie's new review:

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man is a  collection of Ray Bradbury’s stories which are sandwiched between the account of the titular man whose tattoos come alive at night and set the scenes for the 18 tales in this collection. All of these stories are classic Ray Bradbury — full of spacemen, Earth-Mars conflict, psychiatrists, spoiled children, bad marriages, book burning, domestic work-saving technologies, and nervous breakdowns. They deal with the fear of atomic war, loneliness, prejudice, madness, and the dangers of automobiles, junk food, and media entertainment (but smoking is okay).

All of the tales are written in Bradbury’s incomparable prose and most of them are emotionally touching. But, not surprisingly, they’re almost all grim, making Read More

SFM: Vaughn, Brennan, Campbell, Anders

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“Doctor Kitty Solves All Your Love Problems” by Carrie Vaughn (2001, originally published in Weird Tales 324 (Summer 2001), free on the author’s website)

Kitty Norville is a radio DJ with a late night call-in show, focusing on questions dealing with the supernatural: werewolves, vampires, witches, psychics, etc., in a world where these types of beings have come out to the public. Most of her callers want help... Read More

SFM: Arnason, Allan, Schwab, Kosmatka

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.



“The Grammarian's Five Daughters” by Eleanor Arnason (1999, originally published in Realms of Fantasy, June 1999, reprinted in 2004 and free online at Strange Horizons)

This sweet little story was right up my street. Not only is it told in a slightly kooky, fairy-tale style, it's also all about words (hoorah!). A poor Grammarian sends each of her children out into the world one by one. She can't give them much but what she can give them is a bag of words... Read More

Abarat: A wild ride, a long way to go

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Abarat by Clive Barker

Clive Barker began writing THE BOOKS OF ABARAT series after painting a number of images inspired by dreams. The first book, Abarat, certainly possesses a dreamy, wonderland quality. I felt curiously aware throughout that I had entered a rather indulgent flight of Barker's imagination. I didn't buy the illustrated version of Abarat, (because, I admit, I didn't know anything about it) but if I could go back I probably would. It's a funny one because I usually like to make up my own mind about how an imaginary place looks. I get worried by detailed front covers as I suspect they are trying to plant images in my mind (and woe-behold any book with a television actress on the front). But when an author starts with a painting, hi... Read More

Winter of Fire: A surprisingly affecting little story

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Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan

Sherryl Jordan is a New Zealand-based author of young adult and children’s fantasy fiction. In Winter of Fire (1993) she tells the story of Elsha, a sixteen year old girl born into the enslaved underclass called the Quelled. As the sun has disappeared from the world, a memory only alive in mythology, the Quelled are forced to mine for the firestones that are the people's only source of warmth. But Elsha has a rebellious spirit and is often in trouble with the brutal overseers at the mine. They are from the upper class, the people known as the Chosen.

Elsha's life is changed forever when she is chosen to be the handmaid of the legendry Firelord. The Firelord is the most important man in the world as he possesses the power to divine for firestones, the life fuel of every person alive. The Firelord's choice is re... Read More

Bridge of Birds: Two five-star reviews

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

Welcome to a “story of ancient China that never was”. Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds (1985) is a real romp of frenetic pace and fairy-tale style mingled with the mythology and legends of ancient China. It's as bonkers and as brilliant as they come.

The story centres on a simple but warm-hearted peasant boy, nicknamed Number 10 Ox for his great strength and the order of his birth. Upon learning that all of the children in his village have been struck down by a terrible disease he sets out to Peking seeking a wise man. Down a grimy back street he stumbles upon the only wise-man he can afford, a cantankerous old trickster, with “a slight flaw in his characternamed Li Kao. Together they set off to find the “root of power”... Read More

Cuckoo Song: Weird, scary and utterly unexpected

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

As usual, I am late to the party. Published in 2014, Cuckoo Song is Frances Hardinge’s sixth novel. Her debut novel, Fly by Night, won the Branford Boase First Novel Award and her 2015 novel The Lie Tree won the Costa Book Award, (the fi... Read More

SFM: Ronald, Vernon, Tregillis, Kowal, Hartley, Deeds

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.



“And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald (June 2016, free at Clarkesworld or paperback magazine issue)


Dr. Kostia is a keynote speaker and panel participant in an academic conference. Her specialty is extra-terrestrial intelligence ― specifically, the analysis of some radio-like transmissions from an alien race called the Coronals. About thirty years before, Earth scientists received a signal from the Corona Borealis that rewrote an entire computing cent... Read More

The Summer Tree: Not our favorite work by GGK

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Reposting to include Katie's new review:

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

I absolutely loved everything about Guy Gavriel Kay’s stand-alone novels Tigana and A Song for Arbonne, so it was with great excitement that I downloaded the newly released audio version of The Summer Tree, the first novel in his famous The Fionavar Tapestry.

In The Summer Tree we meet Loren Silvercloak, a wizard who has traveled from the world of Fionavar to Toronto to fetch five university students (three guys and two girls) who are needed to help fight an ancient evil... Read More

The Firework-Maker’s Daughter: Another wonderful tale for children

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The Firework-Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman

The Firework-Maker’s Daughter is a short children’s book written by Phillip Pullman and it’s a little gem. Pullman pulls off a perfect recipe of magic, adventure and pure fun in this sparkling little fairy tale.

Lila is the daughter of the talented firework maker Lachland. All Lila wants is to become a true firework maker herself, but to do so she must make the perilous journey to the fire-fiend Razvani and bring back some Royal Sulphur. What’s worse, she sets off before her father can tell her the one thing she’ll need to survive Razvani’s flames. Luckily Lila has good friends in the form of Hamlet, the talking white elephant, and his special minder Chaluk, who follow Lila in hot pursuit, bumping into goddes... Read More

SFM: Link, Hand, Marr, Kingfisher, Brennan

Short Fiction Monday: Here are a few of the short stories we read this week, all of which are free to read online.



“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2015, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way ... Read More

Sexing the Cherry: The power of the imagination

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Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

Those who have read Jeanette Winterson before may not be surprised by Sexing the Cherry. Those who haven’t, or who have only read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (as I had) may wonder what on earth they have got themselves into. It is a weird story, a surreal experience, and it is meant to be so.

In Sexing the Cherry Winterson celebrates the power of the imagination. Much of the book is the extended flight of fancy of the hero Jordan. He takes the reader to the magical places he visits and introduces us to the characters he meets. These passages read like short stories and are reminiscent of the darkest, most dangerous fairy tales. Winterson also explores the nature of time ... Read More

The Secret of Platform 13: Delightful, fantastical fun

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The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson is a well-loved children’s author, and it is books like The Secret of Platform 13 that make me glad that I have no qualms about reading beyond the confines of suggested age groups. In fact, I find the experience particularly indulgent.

As a quick prologue, I note that some people have made much of the similarity between Ibbotson’s Platform 13 at Kings Cross Station and the one used by J.K. Rowling, Platform 9 3/4. I don’t have much to say on the subject, only that the books are very different in most other ways and honestly, it’s not worth getting excited about.

With that said, I can get on to the important things.
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SFM: Poe, Rinehart, MacDonald, Lien

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the short fiction works we read this week that we wanted to share with you.



“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe (1843, free online at Poe Stories, Kindle version)

I recently stumbled upon PoeStories.com and am pleased with the find. A Poe a day may well keep boredom at bay. The website helpfully gives descriptions of each story. I chose this one for the enticing simplicity of the summary: “a horror story about a cat”.

This is indeed a horror story about a cat, told by a particularly wretched narrator whose descent into alcoholism leaves him plagued with violent thoughts. One night he turns his rage on a once-beloved cat and from... Read More

SFM: El-Mohtar, Miller, Cooney, Pullman, Bear, Valente

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. This week we continue focusing on 2015 Nebula-nominated short fiction, along with some other stories that caught our attention.



“Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar (2015, free on Lightspeed magazineKindle magazine issue), nominated for the 2015 Nebula award (short story)

Madeleine is in therapy after the death of her mother from Alzheimer’s. She and her therapist, Clarice, are discussing the loss of her mother and the odd side-effects from a clinical trial for an Alzheimer’s drug that Madeleine has taken part in. ... Read More

The Miniaturist: Compelling and mysterious, but ultimately unsatisfying

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Jessie Burton’s debut novel, The Miniaturist, was undoubtedly a hit. I bought it because I was in an airport rush and it was winking at me from its bestseller, front row spot on the shelves. The Miniaturist’s popularity does not surprise me. It is an enjoyable read, packed with intertwining mysteries that tease throughout. I imagine a lot of people have fond memories of doll’s houses and were enticed by this aspect of the story, or at least, I was. But despite its potential, the ingredients of intrigue and magic never fully came together in any satisfying way.

The story is that of Nella, a young lady who arrives in Amsterdam in 1686 to begin life as the wife of a wealthy merchant. Things start badly. Her new husb... Read More

The Bloody Chamber: A darkly seductive collection of not-so-traditional tales

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The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories by Angela Carter

Angela Carter’s style is rich and dense. Her short stories are the most sumptuous of literary feasts. In The Bloody Chamber Carter reworks a number of fairy stories and folk tales, from “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Beauty and the Beast” to “Puss-in-Boots”. But Carter never intended to do “versions”. She created brand new stories using the basic premise of the originals as her starting point. In her formidable hands the familiar elements of the tales are moulded into an altogether different beast.

The Bloody Chamber shocked when it was first published in 1979, and is certainly capable of shocking now. At their heart the stories are about sex, violence, and the reclamation of power. Carter’s beasts are disturbingly handsome in their murderous int... Read More

The Screaming Staircase: Spooky and fun (but no Bartimaeus)

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The Screaming Staircase by Jonathon Stroud

LOCKWOOD & CO. is Jonathan Stroud’s second four-part outing. It follows on from the success of his BARTIMAEUS sequence (which comes highly recommended here at FanLit). Stroud specialises in alternate versions of London for children. In BARTIMAEUS it was a London of djinn-conjuring wizards. This time London is troubled by deadly ghosts. The Screaming Staircase is a pacey, exciting introduction to Stroud's new London, but it lacks the sense of magic and humour that made BARTIMAEUS such a winner.

The story’s narrator is Lucy Carlyle, a young girl from the north of England who makes her way to London, seeking employment at a ghost-hunting agency. London’... Read More

The Anubis Gates: A very generous book

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Reposting to include Katie's new review.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Tim Powers' fourth novel, 1983's The Anubis Gates, is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels and Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, as well as the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1984, the book came with plenty of good word of mouth, to say the least. And, as i... Read More

Crystal Mask: Another enchanting addition to the ECHORIUM SEQUENCE

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Crystal Mask by Katherine Roberts

Crystal Mask is the second book in Katherine Robert’s ECHORIUM SEQUENCE. Unlike Song Quest which I first read as a child, Crystal Mask was new to me. I can’t help wishing I had encountered it as a child because I would have been far less fussy about the plot. Adulthood has come with a propensity to pick holes as you will discover if you are minded to read on. Nevertheless, Crystal Mask is a worthy successor to a story I have always loved.

Crystal Mask is set 20 years after Song Quest’s finale. Kherron is now Second Singer at the Echorium. Rialle is also a singer but choses to live... Read More

SFM: Swirsky, Vernon, Bardugo, Norton

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky (2013, free at Apex Magazine)

Rachel Swirsky's “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” is tiny in size but remarkable in strength, a real pint-sized gem. It is no wonder the story won the 2013 Nebula short story award ― anyone who can pack such a punch into so few words knows what they are doing with them.

The story reads like a love letter. The author speculates on how it would be if her lover were a dinosaur, how she would teach him to sing and help plan his dinosaur wedding. The opening tone is perfectly tender... Read More

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, translated into English by John E. Woods

If you are anything like me, then Perfume: The Story of a Murderer will prove a most tantalising title. And, if you are anything like me, you will not be disappointed upon delving inside. This is a story of human nature at its most despicable and scent at its most sublime, a heady combination of depravity and olfactory beauty.

Published in 1985, Perfume fast became a best-seller in Patrick Suskind’s native German. I can only assume the translation is sublime (indeed John Woods received a PEN Translation prize in 1987 for his work on this novel), as sadly I cannot read a word of German in order to compare. This always leaves me perplexed. I can't help feeling there will always be something of the author I am missing. But perh... Read More

SFM: Swirsky, Scalzi, Wong, Sriduangkaew, Heisler, Brookside

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) by Rachel Swirsky (2014, free at Subterranean Press)

“Mara, please wake up. I’ve made you a gift.” But gifts can be complicated: often there are strings attached, and the giver may not be completely in tune with the desires of the recipient… may, in fact, be giving the gift primarily for his or her own reasons. Mara, a young Jewish girl in the final stages of cancer, lives alone with her father Jakub, a free-lance inventor, and their aging German Shepherd in a secluded home in the countryside. T... Read More

Song Quest: An old favourite you may not have heard of

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Song Quest by Katherine Roberts

I read Katherine Roberts’ Song Quest (book one of the three-book ECHORIUM SEQUENCE) as a child when it was first published in 1999. A few years later it was the first book I ever cajoled an unsuspecting customer into buying during my Saturday stint at the local bookshop. It is one those books that has stayed with me and I indulged myself with a re-read partly for stroll down memory lane and partly because I do not think it has received the attention it deserves. As with most things revisited from childhood it did feel smaller and less exciting when viewed from the tarnished eyes of adulthood (which is why I will not be returning to Disneyland) but I still think it is an exciting and, most importantly, enchanting read for the young and young at heart.

Rialle, along with her friends Fren and Chiss... Read More

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