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.

Monstress: Volume 3: Haven

Monstress: Volume 3 by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

It’s always an event when the next collection of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s MONSTRESS is released — I take a copy home, make sure I won’t get interrupted, and just sink down into the complex storytelling and truly gorgeous illustrations. Every year this ongoing graphic novel cleans up at the Eisner and Hugo Awards, and for good reason.

Maika Halfwolf is a young woman with a terrible secret: an ancient monster resides within her body, only partially controllable and with regular bloodthirsty urges. Her entire life she’s fought to keep herself and others safe, but the onset of war throughout the Asian-/Egyptian-inspired world in which she lives means that all sorts of people are frantic to get their hands on Maika and the power she wields.

In Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven, the ong... Read More

Ahsoka: A fun but inconsequential tale about a Star Wars favourite

Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

It struck me on reading this YA novel that there's a definite hierarchy to the stories that are told within the STAR WARS universe. Obviously the movies are the most important: they are seen by the most people, and encompass the most important events in the overarching space epic. They're "tent-poles" so to speak.

In second place are the animated television shows such as The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels which build on the canon that's laid out in the movies, and very occasionally (usually through minor cameos) get to overlap with them.

After that come the books and comics, which are best described as "fillers". They'll usually deal with origin stories of certain characters; of filling in the gaps that couldn't be explored in the films or shows due to time constraints.

As a character who has never appeared in any of the films, but who is an ... Read More

Moonlight and Ashes: A fresh take on the Cinderella fairy tale

Moonlight and Ashes by Sophie Masson

This is one of three fairy tale retellings by Sophie Masson that are only tangentially based on a traditional tale, the others being The Crystal Heart (Rapunzel) and Scarlet in the Snow (Beauty and the Beast). Moonlight and Ashes (2012) tackles Cinderella, and is quite possibly the best of the three. Incorporating elements of the story that are usually forgotten in retellings (such as the magical hazel tree) and Masson's own imagination, it’s a fun and unpredictable fantasy adventure.

Selena is a sixteen-year-old girl living with her spineless father and wicked stepmother, as w... Read More

Remember Me: A Christopher Pike classic

Remember Me by Christopher Pike

The idea of a ghost who has to solve their own murder from beyond the grave is a slam-dunk. I'll read or watch any variation of this story, from Patrick Swayze in Ghost to all those early X-Files episodes. So having been a fan of Christopher Pike in my teen years, I'm not sure how Remember Me (1989) managed to slip my notice. But hey, better late than never!

Shari Cooper is dead, thrown from a balcony at a friend's party. Now her ghost is stuck in limbo, able to see her friends and family, but unable to communicate with them in any way. What's worse, everyone thinks she committed suicide, the police officer investigating her case is an alcoholic, and there's a nightmarish monster chasing her through the afterlife.

But at only eighteen years old, Shari knows she didn't kill herself — someone pushed her off that balcony. And... Read More

Night Flights: A brief but welcome return to the world of MORTAL ENGINES

Night Flights by Philip Reeve

Night Flights (2018) by Philip Reeve is a collection of three short stories set in the world of the MORTAL ENGINES QUARTET (also known as the HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES), and focuses on the character of Anna Fang, a fearless aviatrix. Its timing seemed to be connected to the release of Peter Jackson's filmic adaptation of Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, and Reeve's touching dedication at the front of the book confirmed this. It reads: "To Jihae, who plays Anna Fang with such style and grace that I realized she needed some more stories." Aww.

Set within a framing device of Anna going about her daily business, she recalls three adventures of her pas... Read More

A Flight of Angels: A beautiful anthology

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay (illustrator)

Stories by Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Louise Hawes and Todd Mitchell

An angel has fallen. Led by their insatiable curiosity, the hosts of fae have followed the descent of the white-winged creature and now gather around his still-breathing body to decide what to do with him. They decide to hold a trial, and present evidence in the form of stories about the deeds of angels to decide whether or not to let him live.

I am fairly new to reading graphic novels, so I do not know how original the conceit is of having mul... Read More

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal: A flawed but fun wuxia-fantasy…

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal directed by Peter Pau

I always enjoy a good wuxia-fantasy, and Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal ticks the expected boxes of the genre: noble warriors, beautiful maidens, impressive stunt-work, a twisty-turny plot — but despite its length, it doesn’t quite have the emotional heft it should have.

The city of Hun is ruled by the lesser god Zhang Diaoxian, who protects its people from the demons of Hell by turning a simple scholar called Zhong Kui into a mighty demon-slayer. The two of them have kept Hell’s demons at bay for many years, but now the fifteenth of July approaches, a day in which the Earth is vulnerable from attack.

After the theft of the Dark Crystal from the underworld, and the arrival of Zhong Kui’s former lover – a mysterious maiden called Little Snow – to the city, Diaoxian gives his protégé an elixir that transforms him into a demon warrior, insisting that it’s the... Read More

Snow & Rose: Into the woods… Who knows what may be lurking?

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Snow & Rose (2017) is a charming middle grade level retelling of the Snow-White and Rose-Red fairy tale with illustrations by the author, Emily Winfield Martin. Rose and Snow are the beloved eleven and nine year old daughters of a nobleman and his commoner wife, a sculptor. Rose has black hair and rosy cheeks, and is patient and gentle; Snow has white-blonde hair and icy blue eyes, and has a wilder and more adventurous personality. They have a fat grey tabby cat called Earl Grey (I adore that name! I want to adopt a grey cat now and name him Earl Grey) and had a large house with servants, a library with shelves that reached the ceiling, and a spectacular garden, half white flow... Read More

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood: The backstory of Kanan Jarrus continues…

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood by Greg Weisman

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood is the second collection of comics in an ongoing series that details the mysterious past of Kanan Jarrus, a main character of the animated television show Star Wars Rebels who — as a teenage Jedi Padawan — managed to escape the purge that wiped the rest of the Order out. Having joined the Rebellion as part of the crew of the Ghost, Kanan now finds himself increasingly haunted by his past as he and his team-mates start visiting planets he inhabited while still known as Caleb Dume.

Set within the framing device of the Ghost crew watching over Kanan's unconscious body as it heals in a bacta tank, we delve back into the former Jedi's memories — and this time they're set further back in time than those of Read More

The Refrigerator Monologues: A herald of change?

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

In her Afterword, Catherynne M. Valente lays out the inspiration for 2017’s collection of linked short stories The Refrigerator Monologues. Valente was inspired partly by the work of comics writer Gail Simone, who created and popularized the term “Women in Refrigerators” as a way to describe women cape-and-mask heroes, and how they are treated in conventional comics. As for structure, Valente looked toward Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking theatrical work The Vagina Monologues. To no small extent, though, Valente was galvanized into writing this collection because of her anger at how Gwen ... Read More

Nimona: A fun, colourful and heartfelt fantasy tale

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

I picked up Nimona (2015) after recognizing that writer/illustrator Noelle Stevenson was also the showrunner of Netflix’s rebooted She-Ra, and becoming interested in what she worked on in the past. As it happens, if you enjoyed She-Ra then you’ll probably like Nimona as well (and visa-versa) as there are many similarities in style, character, depth and tone.

Ballister Blackheart returns home to his evil fortress one day to discover a perky young girl waiting for him, insisting that she’s his newest sidekick. Introducing herself as Nimona, he’s a little doubtful about her youth and bloodthirsty streak, but soon won over by her mysterious (and very useful) shapeshifting abilities.

In his ongoing vendetta against the heroic Ambrosius Goldenloin, Nimona proves herself to be a very able ally, not only in her destructi... Read More

Street Freaks: A new genre for a well-known author

Street Freaks by Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks is best known for his fantasy novels (particularly the SHANNARA series) but with Street Freaks (2018) he tries his hand at science fiction for the first time. The results are ... fine. This is hardly a game-changing or genre-bending novel, but a fast-paced, reasonably interesting story that belongs as much in the dystopian genre as it does science fiction. Brooks's distinctive prose (clear but liable to repeat itself) is matched well with a collection of interesting characters and some fun world-building.

The story begins when teenager Ash Collins receives a warning from his father through his vidview, telling him "Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks. Don't wait ... "The connection ends before the message is complete, and minutes later Ash's apartmen... Read More

Buried Heart: Forced to pick a side

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

In Night Flower, Kiya and Esladas met and fell in love, beginning a journey that would, eventually, shake the city of Saryenia to its very foundation. In Court of Fives, their daughter Jessamy got her heart’s desire, the chance to train as a Court of Fives runner, at the cost of her family’s safety. In Poisoned Blade, Jes did everything she could to reunite her loved ones while rooting out royal corruption, but it wasn’t enough. In Bright Thrones, Jes’ twin Bettany... Read More

The Little Broomstick: A strange and mysterious little story

The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart

Having recently watched Mary and the Witch's Flower, I was curious about how it measured up to its source material, particularly since I usually read the book before watching its filmic adaptation.

And The Little Broomstick (1971) is a strange little book in so many ways: beautifully written, with plenty of haunting passages, but with a story and setting that would have been served well with a lot more detail and background. Imagine Hogwarts School without any sense of its history — though Endor College predates Harry Potter by over two decades, there are so many unanswered questions about why it exists and who attends.

Mary Smith is a ten year old girl who's thoroughly unhappy with her current situation: bundled off to the Shropshire countryside, sep... Read More

Lioness Rampant: A conclusion fit for a King’s Champion

Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce takes the best elements of the three preceding SONG OF THE LIONESS books and polishes them to a fine sheen in Lioness Rampant, the final book of the quartet. She manages to pack swords-and-sorcery, a quest narrative, kind-hearted nobles and charming scoundrels, dastardly villains, truly affecting emotional arcs, and Alanna’s never-ending journey of self-discovery into a single volume without it feeling over-stuffed or slowing the narrative. Pierce’s skills as a writer were visibly improving as she worked on this series, and in Lioness Rampant, the reasons for her lasting and continued influence on the YA fantasy genre are obvious even when one considers how early in her career this quartet was published (1983 – 1988). This book, more ... Read More

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 1: The Last Padawan: Insight into a Star Wars favourite

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 1: The Last Padawan by Greg Weisman

The secret backstory of Kanan Jarrus, one of the main characters in the animated television show Star Wars Rebels, was ripe for comic book expansion. As a former Jedi Padawan who was only a teenager when the rest of the Jedi Order was wiped out, his past provides plenty of scope for exciting and bittersweet stories. After all, as a survivor of the purge, he was one of the lucky ones.

During an otherwise straightforward supply-run to Lothal, the crew of the Ghost notice that Kanan has a rather sharp reaction to their need for a pit-stop on the planet Kaller. It turns out that he's been there before, and flashbacks (which comprise most of the issue) take us back fifteen years to the middle of the Clone Wars, where Kanan — then called Caleb Dume — fought alongside his master Depa Billaba for the Republic.

They successfully freed Kaller from... Read More

Poisoned Blade: Does what every good sequel should do

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Warning: may contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Court of Fives

In Poisoned Blade, the second novel in her COURT OF FIVES trilogy, Kate Elliott builds on the strengths of Court of Fives and expands upon it, weaving tangled webs of intrigue, deceit, and impressively multi-layered political schemes. Anyone who thinks Young Adult fiction can’t successfully handle themes like a culture’s endurance in defiance of colonialism, the myriad socio-economic factors leading toward revolution, or racial and/or gender inequality, needs to read these books: Elliott covers these issue... Read More

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

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 OF THE LIONESS series is about old ways changing to make w... 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

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 Alanna, but I’ll do my best to keep them vague.
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

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