Rebecca Fisher

REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

Jigs & Reels: Like a box of chocolates, a fun collection of treats

Jigs & Reels by Joanne Harris

It's always fascinating to read short stories written by your favourite author. Without the luxury of a longer page-count, they're forced to hone their craft and get out of their comfort zone, and often some of their best work can be found in the short story format. Besides which, a lot can be said with just a few words. As Joanne Harris herself points out in her foreword, short stories: "provoke questions, whereas most novels tend to try and answer them."

Harris is perhaps best known for Chocolat, and most of her novels are so full of sensory description that you can almost see, smell, taste and feel what she's describing. However, the twenty-two short stories in Jigs & Reels (2004) are... Read More

Grail of Stars: The fourth and final adventure

Grail of Stars by Katherine Roberts

Grail of Stars (2014), the fourth and final book in Katherine Roberts's PENDRAGON LEGACY, sees the daughter of King Arthur Pendragon go in search of the last of the Four Lights that can restore her father to life and banish her evil cousin Mordred once and for all: the Grail of Stars.

Princess Rhianna is joined by her best friend Elphin from the Island of Avalon, the newly knighted Sir Cai who wields the Lance of Truth, and Arianrhod, the former maidservant of Morgan le Fay, who still bears the marks of her cruelty. Rhianna herself is in possession of her father's sword Excalibur, the Sword of Light, as well as the Crown of Dreams, which holds all the wisdom of the land's former rulers. Now she must use these gifts to seek out the Grail, even as rumours grow... Read More

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club: Twelve dancing princesses meet the Roaring Twenties

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

As far as fairy tale retellings go, mingling the tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses with the 1920's New York speakeasies makes a lovely kind of sense. The prohibition, the dance halls, the high society – it all fits perfectly with the story of twelve princesses who sneak out of their rooms every night, much to the bewilderment of their father when he sees their worn-out shoes every morning.

Genevieve Valentine transports the familiar beats of the story to a Fifth Avenue townhouse in the Roaring Twenties, in which the daughters of wealthy magnate Joseph Hamilton are kept in captivity, seen by no one but themselves. He was eager for a son of course, but his wife died after twelve girls (including two sets of twins).

This leaves Josephine, the firstborn... Read More

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: Jennifer Lawrence of Arabia

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is the third volume of the SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet and the weakest volume of the series. Tamora Pierce makes a good effort of exposing Alanna (and thus, the reader) to some of the varying peoples and customs within the Tortallan kingdom and its neighboring countries, but relies too much on the White Savior trope, and the entire book suffers as a result. As I’ve said before, readers should start with the first book, Alanna: The First Adventure and work forward, though Pierce does a great job of summarizing key events from previous books.

The entire SONG ... Read More

Court of Fives: The dangers of imperialism, racism, and ambition

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott has a well-deserved reputation for writing excellent science-fiction and fantasy for adults. Her characters, world-building, and societies are not only entertaining but well-crafted. It seems only natural that, at some point in her career, she would try her hand at Young Adult fiction. The result is Court of Fives, the first in a planned fantasy trilogy which is sure to appeal to younger readers as well as Elliott’s established fan base. While I’ve seen the novel described as “YA meets Game of Thrones,” Elliott herself has said, “I prefer Little Women meets American Ninja Warrior,” which is far more relevant to my personal interests (and a more unique combination). Read More

In the Hand of the Goddess: Squire Alan(na) delivers some hard knocks

Reposting to include Rebecca’s new review.

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

In the Hand of the Goddess is the second installment of Tamora Pierce’s SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet, and while Pierce does provide a fair amount of backstory and repetition of key details from the previous book, Alanna, I recommend reading the books in sequence. By starting at the beginning, readers will have a better appreciation for the trials and challenges Alanna experiences in her quest to become a knight, as well as her struggle to maintain her false identity as “Alan,” since only boys are allowed to train in the king’s service. This review may contain a few spoilers for key events in Ala... Read More

Crown of Dreams: Things get tough for Rhianna and her friends

Crown of Dreams by Katherine Roberts

Crown of Dreams (2013) is the third book in Katherine Roberts's four-part PENDRAGON LEGACY series, which details the quest undertaken by Princess Rhianna — daughter of Arthur Pendragon and his queen Guinevere — to find the Four Lights that might save the city of Camelot and restore her father back to life.

Already she has two of the four Lights in her possession: the Sword of Light and the Lance of Truth, the latter of which is now carried by her champion Sir Cai. Other allies include her fairy friend Elphin from the Isle of Avalon, her maid Arianrhod, who was once a servant to the witch Morgan le Fey, and the wizard Merlin, currently trapped in the body of a small hunting hawk. Then there are the Knights of the Round Table, including Sirs Bors, Bedieve... Read More

Lance of Truth: Rhianna’s adventure continues

Lance of Truth by Katherine Roberts

Lance of Truth (2012) is the second book in Katherine Roberts's four-part story about the daughter of King Arthur Pendragon, and her quest to find the Four Lights (Sword of Light, Lance of Truth, Crown of Dreams and Holy Grail) that might restore her father to life and bring peace to Britain.

Princess Rhianna has lived her whole life on the enchanted isle of Avalon, but after learning of her parentage upon the death of King Arthur, she journeys to the mainland with her friend Elphin in order to claim the throne of Camelot. Having already found Excalibur, the Sword of Light, she now plans to retrieve the Lance of Truth, currently in possession of the disgraced Sir Lancelot.

But Lancelot is himself missing, on a search for Queen Guinevere in the northern lands. ... Read More

The Raven King: The fourth and final in THE RAVEN CYCLE

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Here it is, The Raven King (2016), the fourth and final book in Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN CYCLE, which began with The Raven Boys and continued with The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue. And ... it's hard to know what to say. I've had mixed feelings throughout all four of the books, liking certain ideas and characters, but often getting a little fed up with the prose and dialogue, which sometimes felt too witty and/or flourished for its own good.

In the small Virginian town of Henrietta, a young private school boy called Richard Gansey has been searching for the lost burial place of Owen Glendower, a Welsh king, in the hopes that he might be granted a life-changing wish. O... Read More

Blue Lily, Lily Blue: Events complicate themselves in the third instalment

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

I'll admit that the last book in this four-part series, The Dream Thieves, was difficult for me to get through — it wasn't that I disliked the characters or the storyline, but the pacing was glacially slow and Maggie Stiefvater's prose is definitely an acquired taste. However, Blue Lily, Lily Blue (2014) was an improvement; I could tell because after each reading session I was surprised by just how many chapters I'd churned through.

Here's the gist of THE RAVEN CYCLE: Blue Sargent is a psychic’s daughter who has no gift of her own except the ability to amplify the gifts of others. Her whole life, she's lived under the shadow of a prediction that states she'll kill her own true love, one that she's managed to avoid... Read More

The Dream Thieves: Second book delves deeper into plot and character

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The second in Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN CYCLE, and a direct sequel to The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves (2013) focuses on the character of Ronan Lynch, a teenage boy who — in the last sentence of the previous book's final chapter — reveals to his friends that he can pull real objects out of his dreams.

But that's getting ahead of myself. The gist of this four-part series is that four students of the prestigious Aglionby Academy are on a quest to find the resting place of Welsh king Owen Glendower. Their de-facto leader Gansey believes that he's buried somewhere in the small town of Henrietta, Virginia, built on one of the powerful ley-lines that criss-cross the countryside. Gansey has devoted much of his young life to fin... Read More

Sword of Light: A new spin on Arthurian legend

Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts

Rhianna has lived her entire life on the idyllic island of Avalon, never knowing her parents or seeing anything of the world beyond the isle. But the truth comes out in Britain's darkest hour, when the wizard Merlin arrives on Avalon's shore with the body of King Arthur Pendragon, slain in battle by his nephew Mordred and missing his sword Excalibur.

Rhianna learns she is the secret daughter of Arthur and Guinevere, hidden from the world at birth and now rightful heir to Camelot's throne. It's a lot for a young girl to absorb, but when she realizes that hope for the future lies with her finding the Four Lights (the sword of light, the lance of truth, the crown of dreams and the holy grail) that could reunite the kingdom and restore her father to life, she can't wait to leave home and fulfil her rightful destiny.

Naturally it's easier said than done. She's lived a sheltered life, a... Read More

Alanna: The First Adventure: Swords, sorcery, and fun

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

Alanna: The First Adventure is, indeed, the first volume of well-known fantasy author Tamora Pierce’s four-book series THE SONG OF THE LIONESS. First published back in the 1980s, the quartet was remarkable in many ways, tackling issues like gender roles, cultural tensions, self-determination, and inherited versus achieved power. Written at a time when “young adult” didn’t exist as a genre and feisty teenage girls couldn’t find much positive representation in mainstream fantasy, the series laid out many of the familiar paths and tropes of what has become modern YA fantasy. Since I’ve read a lot of novels influenced by Pierce’s work, the series’ 2014 hardcover re-release and their attendi... Read More

The Raven Boys: A challenging urban fantasy with a dash of everything

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue is the only non-psychic in a large extended family of psychics in Henrietta, Virginia. Her only unusual ability is that her presence amplifies the psychic powers of others around her, but she herself cannot use these abilities. So it’s a shock when, while sitting vigil in a graveyard with her aunt Neeve, Blue sees the spirit of a boy about her age who is destined to die in the next year. She learns that there are only two possible reasons she was able to see him: either he’s her true love, or she’s going to kill him.

The Raven Boys follows two groups of characters whose stories weave together: Blue and her eccentric family, and a clique of four boys from the posh Aglionby Academy, whose students are nicknamed “raven boys” for the emblem on their uniforms. The leader of this clique is Ganse... Read More

The House on Parchment Street: A ghost story from a developing fantasy writer

The House on Parchment Street by Patricia McKillip

I probably would never have known about The House on Parchment Street (1973) were I not such a huge fan of Patricia McKillip's fantasy stories, and while browsing her name on a library search engine, this title popped up. It was obviously one of her earliest published works, so I was willing to give it a go.

The House on Parchment Street is profoundly different from her later stories, which are not only told with dense poetic-prose, but focus more on fantasy worlds and creatures. This is a fairly straightforward ghost story, with equally straightforward prose, about a girl called Carol Christopher who travels from America to stay with her cousin Bruce, Aunt Catherine, and Uncle Harold in a small English village.

Carol a... Read More

Mary Poppins: Perhaps not what you were expecting

Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Having recently seen Saving Mr. Banks, a film that purports to examine the strained relationship between author P.L. Travers and film-maker Walt Disney when it came to adapting Mary Poppins for the big screen, it was only natural that I finally got around to my long overdue reading of the classic children's story Mary Poppins.

Having grown up with the Disney film, it's quite shocking to realize how little one resembles the other. Of course, I knew there would be significant differences — the film is filled with animation and musical numbers, for a start. But I was surprised by how many of the most iconic elements of the Disney film are completely absent from the novel: there is no line of potential governesses being swept away by the East Wind, no "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," no dancing chimney s... Read More

SAGA Volume 9: A shattering volume

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Saga (Vol. 9) by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) & Fiona Staples (artist)

It’s been nine months since I read Vol 8 of Saga, which is something special. It’s the only comic series that I follow, and the characters are as vivid, complicated, lovable, despicable, cruel, and conflicted as any I know. This is a space opera that tackles the most difficult and relevant topics of our own society, doesn’t hesitate to shock readers, flip the script, and most frightening of all, doesn’t hold back from killing off major characters that we are deeply invested in. It’s a cruel message, that even the best people trying to just live their lives and maintain their ideals can be snuffed out by those with less scruples, and that those that have used violence in the past can rarely escape the consequences, even after having turned to a peaceful path. This volume wi... Read More

SAGA Volume 8: Real and funny and heartbreaking

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Saga (Vol 8) by Brian K Vaughan (writer) & Fiona Staples (artist)

It’s been six months since I read Vol 7 of SAGA, and after moving to London last summer we recently popped into Forbidden Planet in Soho, and that store is an absolute treasure trove of SF comics, books, and other fan goodies. There are so many enticing comics on offer there, you could spend your entire salary in one wild shopping spree. When I saw Vol 8 of SAGA with Wild West cover art among the new releases, I knew I had to have it.

SAGA is my favorite comic series, because it is always pushing the envelope in terms of content, themes, gorgeously assured and sometimes shocking artwork, and characters so charming, honest and flawed that you can’t help but cheer for them. If you like intelligent, snarky, sometimes profane space opera with a v... Read More

SAGA Volume 7: A valuable stepping stone

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review:

Saga (Vol. 7) by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)

I had to wait nine months for Vol 7 of Brian Vaughan's Saga, and about a year for Vol 6, after reading the first 5 volumes back-to-back. Saga is my favorite current comic series (actually, the only one I am following at the moment), and if you haven’t read it then go out and read Vol 1 right now. If you like intelligent, snarky, sometimes profane space opera centered on a pair of star-crossed lovers who have a little girl named Hazel and an amazing supporting cast of bounty-hunters, humanoid robots, reporters, and various others all caught up in a gal... Read More

SAGA Volume 6: All about reunions

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Saga, Vol 6, Issues 31-36 by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)

Saga Vol 6 is the first one I had to wait for, as I read the first 5 volumes back-to-back. This is such a popular, excellently-written, and amazingly-illustrated series that the main question fans will have is, “Is it still as greater as ever?” Well, I’d say it isn’t quite as brilliant as the first 4 volumes, but Vaughan and Staples have established a very high level of storytelling and can probably maintain it for quite some time. So rest assured, fans will not be overly disappointed. This series remains centered on the characters, though thi... Read More

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: The Serpent’s Heir: A fun adventure

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: The Serpent's Heir by Dean DeBlois, Richard Hamilton, & Doug Wheatley

This graphic novel takes place shortly after the events of the film How to Train Your Dragon 2, which finds Hiccup as the new chief of Berk in the wake of his father's death. Amidst the rebuilding of the village, the suspicious nature of Berk citizens at the presence of outsiders, and the ongoing training of new dragons, it's a struggle for Hiccup to adjust to his new role as leader.

So when an envoy named Calder arrives from the island of Nephenthe, Hiccup jumps at the chance to take some time off. Along with Toothless, Astrid, Fishlegs, Snotlout, Eret, the twins and his mother, he travels to Nephenthe at the behest of King Mikkel the Munificent to investigate strange tremors across his island.

If you're a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon films or animated television show, then there's nothing in... Read More

SAGA Volume 5: SAGA keeps getting bigger

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Saga, Volume 5, Issues 25-30 by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga Vol 5 represents a noticeable shift in tone in the ever-evolving series. Until this point the story has managed to wonderfully balance the tribulations of Alana, Marko, Klara and Hazel; The Will, Lying Cat, Gwendolyn and Sophia in pursuit, Prince Robot IV, and the renegade terrorist Dengo. Some of my absolute favorite moments of Vol 4 involved Alana’s acting career and the hardships and temptations faced by Marko as a stay-at-home dad. I also found the story of Dengo incredibly relevant to today’s world in depicting the mentality of a terrorist who believes th... Read More

Poe Dameron Vol. 5: The Spark and the Fire: A rewarding wrap-up to a great series

Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 5: The Spark and the Fire by Charles Soule & Angel Unzueta

They certainly left the best for last, as this final instalment in the POE DAMERON series involves exciting new adventures, several important “gap fillers”, seriously beautiful artwork, and some much-needed development and introspection from our titular character.

Whereas the previous volumes have all taken place before The Force Awakens, this one jumps ahead to the aftermath of the battle of Crait, in which Poe, Finn and Rey (and BB-8 of course) are finally able to catch up on the Millennium Falcon. This means that until Episode IX comes out in December 2019, this comic contains the most recent chronological events in the saga.

It’s great to see our three leads finally interact with one another, and their warmth and witty banter makes me wonder (not for the first time) why on earth they had to ... Read More

Poe Dameron Vol. 4: Legend Found: Who doesn’t like a space heist?

Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 4: Legend Found by Charles Soule & Angel Unzueta

The fourth volume in the POE DAMERON series, which details the early conflict between the (still fledging) Resistance and First Order forces, really starts to line things up with the opening act of The Force Awakens in this issue — specifically, the search to find Lor San Tekka, an intergalactic explorer who may have clues to finding the location of Luke Skywalker.

Played by Max von Sydow in the movie, we’re introduced to him here breaking into a high security vault in order to study an ancient Jedi artefact. When he’s arrested for his crime, it’s up to General Leia, Poe Dameron and the rest of Black Squadron to pull off a daring long-con to rescue him.

They’re got all the pieces in place: the lie, the misdirection, the inside man, but the return of the cunning Agent Terex throws a spanner in the work... Read More

Poe Dameron Vol. 3: Legend Lost: A great lead-up to the events of The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol. 3: Legend Lost by Charles Soule & Angel Unzueta

The third collection in the POE DAMERON series, which detail the events that lead up to The Force Awakens through the eyes of the (current) best pilot in the galaxy is a bit more serialized this time around, with several adventures that feel unconnected until the final chapter.

General Leia Organa is the leader of the Resistance, working out of a secret base on the planet D’Qar and sending Poe Dameron and his Black Squadron on a series of reconnaissance missions to undermine the First Order. So far they’ve dealt with a traitor in their midst and a ruthless former Imperial; now Poe meets with an old friend (a journalist called Suralina Javos of an alien species I’d love to see on the big screen) who has some information for him.

There are space battles here, and double-crosses, and plenty of the camaraderie... Read More

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