Kevin Wei

KEVIN WEI, with us since December 2014, is an undergrad at Columbia University. Secretly, Kevin has always believed in dragons. Not the Smaug kind of dragon, only the friendly ones that invite you in for tea. This might just be because Funke’s Dragon Rider was the story that mercilessly hauled him into the depths of the SFF genre at the ripe old age of 5. His literary tastes range from epic fantasy to military fantasy to New Weird, although sometimes he does enjoy a good space opera here and there, and some of his favorite authors include Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Django Wexler, and Joe Abercrombie. To Kevin, a good book requires not only a good character set and storyline, but also beautiful prose — he is extremely discriminating as it pertains to this last bit. Outside of his bibliophilic life, Kevin loves economics, philosophy, policy debate, classical music, and political science. You can find him at: www.kevinwei.me

The Prey of Gods: Two takes on this imaginative and compelling story

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The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

The Prey of Gods (2017), by Nicky Drayden, takes a well-worn concept — what if gods walked among regular humans? — and breathes new life into it through her innovative uses of location, technology, mythology, and complex characters in this blend of real-world problems and fantastical situations.

Life is pretty great in futuristic Port Elizabeth, South Africa (so long as you’ve got money); people have access to genetically-engineered pets, personal robots with varying degrees of intelligence and capability, and solar wells that draw both energy and moisture from the air. When a long-forgotten demigoddess currently styling herself as Sydney sees an opportunity to restore her former glory and supremacy, just as a powerful new hallucinogenic hits... Read More

A Gathering of Shadows: Rich characterization makes for a strong sequel

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

While I didn’t fall in in love with V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, I quite enjoyed it, giving it four stars in my review. Schwab is back in this universe now with a sequel, A Gathering of Shadows (2016), which carries forward the strengths of the first book, making for yet another strong story.

Set four months after the events of book one (and yes, you’ll definitely want to read book one if you haven’t and possibly wish to skim it or find an online synopsis if you have... Read More

The Traitor Baru Cormorant: Breathtakingly original, fiercely intelligent

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

(Foreword: actual rating: 5.5/5 stars. Do not read Dickinson’s short story of the same title; it’s a spoiler for the novel’s ending. Consider yourself forewarned. Also, please see my interview with Seth Dickinson.)

Breathtakingly original and carefully crafted, The Traitor Baru Cormorant by debut novelist Seth Dickinson is one of those very few works that straddle the line between “genre” and “literary” fiction. It’s the story of a girl: a lover, a traitor, a savant, an accountant, and above all, a daughter of a huntress, a smith, and a shield-bearer, but it’s also a story of oppression, of resistance, of identity, and of politics.... 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

Sins of Empire: Familiar characters and fantastic plot in a new setting

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Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

In Sins of Empire, Brian McClellan makes his explosive return to the world of THE POWDER MAGE trilogy with a sequel series called GODS OF BLOOD AND POWDER. Sins of Empire (2017) is the first GODS OF BLOOD AND POWDER novel, so I’d recommend checking out THE POWDER MAGE trilogy first before picking up this book. If you’re curious about McClellan’s work, you can check our reviews here: Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, and Read More

The Collapsing Empire: Entertaining setup for a new space opera series

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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Marion Deeds: John Scalzi’s “brand” is generally known for thoughtful premises, fast-paced action and a humorous tone (certainly there are exceptions). The Collapsing Empire hits all the right Scalzi-notes: it provides a big problem that will have long-reaching influence on human society; it has smarter-than-average characters working to fix things; it has action, snark, and humor. While one storyline is resolved, somewhat, by the end of this book, what The Collapsing Empire does best is set up the problem and introduce characters for the rest of this series.

The Empire of the Interdependency spans many star systems, and is itself dependent on the Flow, an extra-dimensional field with “s... Read More

Ninefox Gambit: Geeky, hard sci-fi for Stephenson fans

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

In an advanced, multi-planetary empire replete with advanced technology and magical mysticism, Captain Kel Cheris finds herself resorting to heretical tactics to save her troops when she puts down a sacrilegious rebellion. Unfortunately, her superiors in Ninefox Gambit (2016) aren’t quite sympathetic to her play, choosing to use her as a tool to revive and serve as a bodily host to the immortal spirit form of General Shuos Jedao to save the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a religious stronghold that’s critical to the civilization’s magics. It would be a difficult enough task for Cheris since the rebels have taken and are now defending what was supposed to be an impregnable fortress — but did I mention that Jeda... Read More

Amberlough: A rich, well-written romance and instant classic

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Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

While Lara Elena Donnelly’s debut novel Amberlough (2017) isn’t quite the Fleming-esque spy thriller it purports to be, Amberlough certainly doesn’t disappoint. Set in Amberlough City, a decadent, Industrial-era locale reminiscent of Paris in the early 1900s, Amberlough tells the story of Cyril DePaul and his lover Aristide Makricosta, who also happens to be the city’s greatest crime lord. Cyril, a former field operative in Amberlough’s Federal Office of Central Intelligence Services who landed a cushy desk job after an assignment went awry, is supposed to be keeping tabs on Aristide by seducing him but instead finds himself truly falling for Aristide instead. At the same time, a fascist movement is coming to power in Amberlough’s vibrant democracy, so life in the ... Read More

Shadows of Self: A breezy weird Western romp

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Bill: Let’s see, last week in September. That means I’ve got to grade my first-years’ first essays. Call the guy to clean the gutters. Make sure the furnace and gas fireplace are set to go. And, oh yeah, it’s been a month, that must mean I have a new Brandon Sanderson novel to review. Yep, Shadows of Self, the second book in his second MISTBORN trilogy (or, if you prefer, the fifth book in the entire MISTBORN series). Apparently it’s due out in two weeks, which means I better get on this now or the third book will be out before I review the second (I swear, if Brandon Sanderson and Joyce Carol Oates ever had a child, their love child would be a high-speed printing press).

Interestingly... Read More

Last Song Before Night: A debut from an author with tremendous potential

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Reposting to include Kevin's new review.

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer

Last Song Before Night (2015) is the debut novel from Ilana C. Myer, and while many aspects of the work shine — detailed world-building combined with protagonist backstory and development — they come at the expense of antagonist development, prose ranging from lovely to overly ornate, and, most importantly, the plot of the novel itself.

The novel ranges far and wide, but at its crux, there is a woman named Lin who seeks to achieve the impossible by becoming a female poet, forbidden in the land of Eivar for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained. It comes across as nothing more than a deliberate authorial obstacle intended to make Lin’s against-the-odds journey that much more difficult and her successes that much sweeter. Acade... Read More

Hugo Winner N.K. Jemisin talks THE FIFTH SEASON and THE OBELISK GATE

Today, Fantasy Literature is honored to talk to N.K. Jemisin, who, in 2016, became the first Black author to win the Hugo in the Best Novel category for her work The Fifth Season, book one in the BROKEN EARTH series. In addition to writing the INHERITANCE trilogy, the DREAMBLOOD series, and the BROKEN EARTH series, N. K. Jemisin is also a speculative short fiction author. She has also won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and has been nominated for numerous other awards such as the World Fantasy Award. N.K. Jemisin made time to talk to Kevin at the Brooklyn Book Festival this year about her writing process and her latest novel Read More

The Guns of Empire: Unexpectedly falls prey to middle book syndrome

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The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler

In The Guns of Empire, Django Wexler continues one of the strongest military fantasy series to date. With Queen Raesinia determinedly in tow, Janus and Marcus chart course for the holy city of Elysium in hope of destroying the Pontifex of the Black to bring a more permanent peace to Vordan. Our protagonists return to begin a massive military invasion of Vordan’s powerful neighbors, and if you enjoyed Wexler’s world building in book three, The Price of Valor, wait until you get your hands on The Guns of Empire! Unforeseen challenges (and unforeseen romances) arise, and the story of Vordan grows ever more complex.

Wexler’s storytelling is particularly stellar in The Gu... Read More

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen: A different VORKOSIGAN book

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Reposting to include Kevin's new review:

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

Note: This review discusses a major revelation for readers of this series, disclosed in the first chapter of this book.

Three years after the sudden death of her husband Aral, Cordelia Vorkosigan is still the Vicereine (governor) of the colony planet Sergyar, and is still recovering from the grief of losing Aral. Cordelia is now seventy-six, but still young both at heart and physically, since she enjoys the much longer-than-usual lifespan of a native of Beta Colony. Barrayaran Admiral Oliver Jole, who is nearly fifty, greets Cordelia as she returns to Sergyar, and as they share a lunch and some reminiscing a few days later, it soon becomes clear that Cordelia and Oliver share a deeper history: an extramarital affair by Aral with Oliver, who was his young, stun... Read More

The Summer Dragon: A paragon of character development with plot troubles

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The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood

It’s been ages since I’ve encountered a worthwhile dragon-rider-type novel, and illustrator Todd Lockwood’s debut The Summer Dragon certainly didn’t disappoint! This first instalment in Lockwood’s THE EVERTIDE series tells the story of Maia, scion of a family of dragon-breeders who have tended the aeries of Riat for generations. In The Summer Dragon, the dragon riders are the sociopolitical elite, and Maia hopes to someday day bond with one of the dragons of Riat. When their nation Korruzon’s war against the Harodhi takes a turn for the worse, however, the government requisitions the entire brood from Riat, leaving Maia dragon-less. Compounding the problem is Maia and her brother’s sighting of the mythical Summer Dragon near their hometown, which drags Maia headfirst int... Read More

Snakewood: Interesting premise that needs more work

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Snakewood by Adrian Selby

I picked up Adrian Selby’s debut novel, Snakewood, after hearing a lot of good things about the book. Promising a dark world of realpolitik in the tradition of Glen Cook, Snakewood tells the story of the company once known as Kailen’s Twenty. While the company is long disbanded, many of its members still live and thrive in various occupations, until they turn up with throats slit and a black, stone coin on their bodies — the mark of a traitor. Spooked by these occurrences, former company leader Kailen begins calling his soldiers back to his side both to protect them and to discover the truth behind the murders. It’s a fascinating story, but the execution in Snakewood leaves a lot to be desired.
Read More

Red Rising: An engaging debut

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Reposting to include Marion's new review:

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

In Pierce Brown’s debut novel, Red Rising, humanity lives in a strictly hierarchical society, with the various castes marked by colors: Golds at the top, Reds at the bottom, Pinks for pleasure, Yellows for bureaucrats, etc. Darrow, a young Red, who mines beneath the surface of Mars for Helium-3, has always accepted the hierarchy as it has been drummed into him, until events cause him to see things differently. Eventually, he is set on a path whereby he will seek to undermine the Golds’ power and spark a revolution of Reds. If, that is, he can stay true to himself and his mission even as he infiltrates the Gold society. Because of the many twists in the novel, that pretty much all I’m going to say about plot.

Usually I like to start with the positiv... Read More

GIVEAWAY! 20 copies of Red Rising by Pierce Brown

We love Pierce Brown’s RED RISING trilogy, a grand-scale space opera with class warfare, rebellion and a main character struggling with his own destiny. You can read our reviews here.

We are partnering with the publisher, Del Rey, on a way to introduce more of you to this great story.

We are giving away 20 (yes, you read that right, 20) copies of Book One, Red Rising, to 20 readers with a USA or Canadian address. Please note that we cannot ship to a Post Office Box.

Please complete the form below if you want a copy of Red Rising!! We'll contact the 20 winners within 2 weeks.





TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY, please fill out the following form.
If you're the winner, we'll let you know by email wi... Read More

Morning Star: An emotional rollercoaster that ends a trilogy with a BANG

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Reposting to include Bill's new review:

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

WARNING: Contains spoilers for book two, Golden Son

I was very excited to finally lay hands (or eyes) on Pierce Brown’s Morning Star, the grand finale of his Red Rising trilogy. Picking up where book two, Golden Son, left off, Morning Star opens roughly a year after the Jackal storms into the celebration at Darrow’s Triumph, massacres Darrow’s supporters, and captures Darrow himself. While Ares has been killed, the rebellion and similarly-inspired uprisings are still alive and kicking, wreaking havoc across the solar system. But Octavia au Lune is now strengthening her pow... Read More

The Bands of Mourning: Keeps the MISTBORN fun rolling

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The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

The Bands of Mourning is the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s second MISTBORN series, following closely (well under a year) on the heels of the last installment, Shadows of Self. Set several centuries after the original trilogy, this second one shows us a world still dealing with the ramifications of those events, but one that also, unlike a lot of fantasy worlds, has continued to progress technologically as guns, trains, electricity, and a host of other inventions/discoveries continue to shape the culture. While The Bands of Mourning has a few issues, fans of the series (I’m one) will find themselves mostly nicely rewarded as they reenter the world of Lawman and Lor... Read More

Which 2016 releases are you waiting for?

Another year, another round of amazing novels! I can feel myself almost salivating at the delicious, delicious sequels and debuts set to be published this year! Right now I’m envisioning curling up in a comfy chair with a 2016 release and a big plate of cookies... and it’s really distracting…

Anyway, here are the two releases I’m most excited about this year:

1. Daniel Abraham’s The Spider's War, out March 8, is the conclusion to his acclaimed THE DAGGER AND THE COIN series. I’ve been waiting for this one for two years! Here's the publishers's blurb:

The epic conclusion to THE DAGGER AND THE COIN series, perfect for fans of George R.R. Martin. Lord Regent Geder Palliako's great war has spilled across the world, nation after nation falling before the ancient priesthood and weapon of dragons... Read More

The Fifth Season: Stunning imagination

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Editor's update: The Fifth Season won the 2016 Hugo Award.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I am awestricken by the imagination of N.K. Jemisin, but it isn’t just her wild vision of a seismically turbulent planet that makes The Fifth Season so successful. Jemisin depicts her strange and harrowing world through the old-fashioned tools of fine writing and hard work, done so well that it looks easy – transparent – to the reader.

The world of The Fifth Season, or at least one large continent of it, is shaking apart. Against this backdrop we follow three different stories set in three different time periods, one in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophe, two sometime earlier. The three storylines have themes and plot points that eventually converge, but the changes in narration let us as reader... Read More

Blood of the Mantis: A slower, more thoughtful sequel

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Reposting to include Kevin's new review:

Blood of the Mantis by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Things begin to slow down some in Blood of the Mantis. The third book in the SHADOWS OF THE APT series is the smallest, and yet took the longest for me to read. Adrian Tchaikovsky maintains the same level of writing established in the first two, but seems to be struggling a bit with middle-book syndrome. The events in book 3 are too important to completely leave out of the story, it’s too long to be split between other books, and feels a little wanting after the first two books’ onslaught of awesomeness.

Blood of the Mantis is not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination; it’s just not as good as the first two. It had some seriously high standards to meet after ... Read More

Dragonfly Falling: It’s weird, but it works

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Reposting to include Kevin's new review:

Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Between introducing the uniquely imaginative concept of ‘Insect-kinden’ and showcasing a well-rounded display of characterization, world-building, story, pacing and prose, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold was not only an impressive debut, it was also a memorable start to an exciting new fantasy series. A direct continuation of Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling is basically more of the same, just on a larger and more entertaining scale.

Like Empire in Black and Gold, the highlight of Dragonfly Falling is once again the Insect-kinden who, with their diverse Arts and philosphies, continue to lend the saga ... Read More

Empire in Black and Gold: Ought not to work

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Reposting to include Kevin's recent review:

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

If all I had to go by was the cover art (Tor 2008 edition), the title of the book and the synopsis, I probably wouldn’t give Adrian Tchaikovsky’s debut a second glimpse. After all, the artwork fails to capture the eye, the book title is bland, and the summary makes the novel sound formulaic. I mean how many times have authors written about a powerful ‘Empire’ bent on conquering the world and the unlikely heroes determined to stop them? For that matter, how many novels feature youthful protagonists who become much more than they ever dreamed of, haunted forests, a spy who can steal peoples’ faces, rescuing characters from slavers, inciting a revolution and so on? These are all common fantasy conventions utilized by Adrian Tchaikovsky, not to mention the requisite ... Read More

A Spell for Chameleon: Stay away!

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Reposting to include Kevin's recent review.

A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony

You know that delighted little feeling you get when a package arrives on your doorstep? And with how excited you are, you just can’t wait to unbox whatever it is? Imagine you’ve just received a mysterious package, perhaps one you’ve been anticipating for a long time. Except, you’re so thrilled that you forget to check the name on the shipping label… and when you open it up, it’s not for you… Whoops.

You see, I’d heard so many things about Piers Anthony’s XANTH series, and as far as I was concerned, its popularity virtually guaranteed that A Spell for Chameleon, the opening novel of the series, would be spectacular… right? Wrong. In fact, just abo... Read More

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