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.

Hilda and the Troll: An intriguing start to this graphic novel series

Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

The HILDA graphic novels had been on my radar for a while, but knowing they've recently been adapted into a Netflix original made me finally give them a read (I like to read the source material before watching any adaptations).

In Hilda and the Troll, Hilda is a young girl living with her mother in an unspecified part of the Scandinavian countryside, in a little wooden cabin on a great grassy plain. She spends her days wandering outside, drawing in her sketchbook, and reading texts about mythological creatures — which, the reader soon realizes, are not mythological at all.

Hilda encounters sea spirits and giants and trolls, recording them faithfully in her sketchbook. And this isn’t treated as particularly extraordinary; it’s taken for granted that her world is filled with such things. A little man made out of wood occasionally invi... Read More

Verdigris Deep: Be careful what you wish for

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

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 h... Read More

King of Scars: Battling mortal enemies and demons in the Grisha universe

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars (2019), the first book in Leigh Bardugo’s NIKOLAI DUOLOGY and part of the ongoing saga in her GRISHA universe, begins not long after the events in Crooked Kingdom. Readers should ideally have read both the original SHADOW AND BONE trilogy and the SIX OF CROWS duology before picking up this book; there are a lot of references to prior events and previously introduced characters. We return to the country of Ravka, setting of Shadow and Bone, where Nikolai Lant... Read More

The Power of the Dark Crystal: Volume One: A return to the world of Thra

The Power of the Dark Crystal: Volume One by Simon Spurrier

With the recent release of Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a prequel to the original 1982 film, I’ve been treating myself to all the supplementary material that's been released in the show's wake. Given that Thra is one of my favourite fantasy worlds (along with Middle Earth and Narnia), it’s been a dream come true to have so much new content.

According to the afterword, The Power of the Dark Crystal was originally written as a script by screenwriters David Odell, Anette Odell and Craig Pearce – though it was never adapted into a feature-length sequel to The Dark Crystal. Thank goodness for graphic novels, another visual medium that has no need for an extensive budget.

... Read More

Crooked Kingdom: This duology is gripping reading

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Note: This review contains spoilers for Six of Crows, the first book in this duology.

Crooked Kingdom (2016) picks up the story begun in Six of Crows and takes off like ― well, there are no freight trains in this world, so ― a runaway Grisha on jurda parem. In Six of Crows, teenage crime lord Kaz Brekker and his handpicked group of five pulled off a near-impossible heist, rescuing a young boy, Kuwei, from the impenetrable Ice Court of Fjerda and returning to Ketterdam with him and, more importantly, his knowledge of his father’s research into how to turn the ordinary jurda plant into jurda parem, a drug that instantly amps up Gris... Read More

Six of Crows: An exciting fantasy heist

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo, best known for her GRISHA young adult magical fantasy trilogy, explores a different corner of the Grisha world in her new young adult novel, Six of Crows. In the city of Ketterdam, an analog for Amsterdam, criminal gangs control the waterfront, and the surrounding area is a den of iniquity where everything can be bought and sold, including people. One of the gangs, appropriately called the Dregs, is led by 17 year old Kaz Brekker, nicknamed “Dirtyhands” because of his willingness to stoop to any level to maintain and grow his power and control. His young crew has been gaining in power and influence during the few years he’s been in charge of it.

One day a wealthy merchant abduct... Read More

Teen Titans: Raven: A Teen Titan discovers New Orlean’s voodoo

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia & Gabriel Picolo

This recent line of graphic novels showcasing some of DC’s younger heroines seem designed to draw more girls into the world of comic books (not that there weren’t plenty before) with more emphasis not only on female characters, but their experiences as teenagers. Other additions to this series have focused on Mera, Selina Kyle and Harley Quinn, though each one is a standalone story.

As such, the writers assume that readers have no foreknowledge of DC comic books, and each one treats the characters as a “clean slate”, regardless of how well-known or popular they are.

In this case, Raven Roth is a seventeen-year old foster child about to be legally adopted when a car accident claims the life of her would-be mother. Suffering from memory loss, she is taken in by her deceased mother’s family in New Orleans.

Yes, it’s the tried-and-true cli... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader: The construction of Vader’s base

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Have you ever wondered as to how Darth Vader came to have a giant castle on Mustafar, the planet where he was left to die by Obi-Wan Kenobi before Emperor Palpatine gave him his cybernetic body? I mean, it seems a really weird place to have your headquarters, right?

Charles Soule has clearly wondered that too, and like most of the questions raised throughout this Vader-centric series, he supplies some pretty satisfying answers in Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader. Vader's castle was glimpsed only briefly in Rogue One (and at the time of this review, the films have yet to return to it) but it was a striking image that immediately threw up a ton of possibilities as to what Sith Lords get up to on their days off... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas: The Empire tightens its grip

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

The early years of Darth Vader continue in Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas, in which Charles Soule explores Vader and the Empire in the near-immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith. As the Empire consolidates its rule over the galaxy, Vader is sent on various missions that test his abilities in the Dark Side and allow him to grow more comfortable with his ever more destructive powers.

Most of the action takes place on Mon Cala, which readers will recognize as the home planet of fan-favourite Admiral Akbar. It was also featured heavily in The Clone Wars television series, and King Lee-Char has a significant role to play here — as do Raddus and Akbar, who appear in Rogue One and... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 2: Legacy’s End: Vader hunts a familiar face

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 2: Legacy's End by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Charles Soule’s DARTH VADER comics explore the character’s thoughts, decisions and actions in the immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith, in which the Empire is still consolidating its power and Vader himself grappling with his new identity as the Emperor’s apprentice.

This volume sees him training the Inquisitors (which featured so heavily in the first two seasons of Star Wars Rebels), an elite team of former Jedi who are now tasked with finding and killing any survivors of Order 66. Among the target list that’s assigned to them, one name in particular stands out…

Legacy’s End spotlights a character I never thought we’d learn more about: Jocasta Nu. You know,... Read More

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine: Vader’s early years

Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine by Charles Soule & Jim Cheung

Although Charles Soule’s DARTH VADER: DARK LORD OF THE SITH was released after Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER, it’s chronologically set several years before, in what is almost the immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith (whereas Gillen’s story was set after the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope).

So the character featured here is a “young” Vader, one still getting used to his new body, title and role in the fledging Empire. Heck, things kick off when he’s literally still in the laboratory where he learns of Padme’s fate.

As such, Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine is not a portrayal of Vader at the height of h... Read More

Mera: Tidebreaker: A fresh look at an oft-sidelined DC heroine

Mera: Tidebreaker by Danielle Paige & Stephen Byrne

This is one in a series of graphic novels starring DC heroines in their teenage years, not compliant with any comic-book continuity, but which are aimed at slightly younger readers who might be interested in some of the female characters to have appeared in the recent influx of superhero movies (other titles in the series include Catwoman, Raven and Harley Quinn).

Having enjoyed Aquaman starring Jason Momoa and Amber Heard, I picked Mera: Tidebreaker up on a whim to learn more about the character of Mera, since in the film she's mostly a supporting character. Here Mera is the teenage princess of the underwater city of Xebel, betrothed to a boy she doesn't fully love, and fighting against Atlantean rule.

When she discovers that her betrothed will inherit the Xebellian throne if he kills the current heir to Atlantis, Mera decide... Read More

Ruin and Rising: A satisfying end to an engrossing story

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

The third and final instalment in Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy was far more rewarding than I had ever anticipated. Though I liked the first book Shadow and Bone and really liked the sequel Siege and Storm, it was Ruin and Rising that I truly loved.

It's difficult to summarize the finale of any book series without giving away details of its predecessors, but here goes – Alina Starkov is a Sun Summoner; a very rare Grisha that can conjure light out of nothing, a skill that's highly prized considering the country of Ravka is divided by a terrible darkness known a... Read More

Siege and Storm: Despite a choppy beginning, this sequel delivers

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (2013) is the second book in Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy, and does what any good sequel should do: expands the world, deepens the characters and raises the stakes. On the other hand, it can't quite avoid the pitfalls of a typical middle book — being unable to truly start or properly finish anything; it ends on a note that gives the impression the whole thing has been setup for the third and final instalment. But apart from this inevitability, Siege and Storm is a satisfying read.

Its predecessor Shadow and Bone introduced us to Alina Starkov and the concept of the Grisha. Born with the power to transmute certain elements (... Read More

Under the Moon: An early look at the future Catwoman

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle & Isaac Goodhart

I’ve been going through these YA graphic novels for a while now, each one in the series focusing on a famous DC heroine (Harley Quinn, Raven, Princess Mera, Selina Kyle) and exploring what her adolescence might have been like. They’re not canon-compliant with any other comic books, television shows or films, but usually have the aesthetic you might expect from the character’s history.

In this case, you can expect Selina Kyle to be involved with cats, living on the streets, and a heist.

Catwoman has always been one of my favourite characters, so I was interested to see how her story would play out here in Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale. It’s about what you’d expect from a future cat-burglar: she doesn’t get on with her mother’s abusive boyfriend, and when he ends up killing her pet kitten (trigger warning f... Read More

Shadow and Bone: Old tropes, new story

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

YA can be more fickle than its literary cousins. It’s notorious for trends. There were wizards, vampires, and what feels like a decade’s worth of dystopias. The result is a glut of books with sassy female protagonists who discover they have a unique power, are fighting to save the world, and struggling to decide which hunky love interest to pick from in their love triangle. Shadow and Bone doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in terms of avoiding these tropes, but what it does do is tell them in a fresh and innovative way.

Alina Starkov was raised in an orphanage alongside her best friend (and future love, obviously), called Mal. They live in Ravka, a fantasy Russia of samovars and Grisha — powerful magical soldiers that work directly for the king. If you don’t have magic, you’re bumped down to the common army, where Alina and Mal find themselves. As with most YA... Read More

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass: A beautifully illustrated spin on a famous anti-hero

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki & Steve Pugh

There are currently four of these similarly-themed graphic novels in publication, which seemingly exist in a bid to attract a new generation of readers to DC comics. Each one takes a famous DC heroine (or anti-heroine) and explores what life might have been like when they were still just teenagers. So far we’ve had Princess Mera, Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn and Raven (who granted, has always been depicted as a teenager).

None of the books have any narrative links to later depictions of these characters; they’re all standalone stories which don’t seem to be compliant with any other continuities — and that’s especially true here in Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. Fifteen-year-old Harleen Quinzel is sent by her mother to live in Gotham City with her grandmother, but the by the time Harleen gets the... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 4: Strange Loop (Rebirth): A fun range of stories to finish up the series

Batgirl Vol. 4: Strange Loop (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Scott Godlweski

This is the fourth volume in Hope Larson's Batgirl run, one which has focused not only on crime-fighting, but also community spirit — what I've liked most about Larson's stories is that Barbara Gordon gives just as much to the suburb of Burnside as her civilian self than she does as a vigilante. In this, she's assisted by a group of friends who also contribute to society in meaningful ways, as well as enriching Barbara's day-to-day life. I didn't realize that members of the Batfamily could be this emotionally stable!

Strange Loop isn't my favourite collection, simply because it's made up of seven shorter stories, which inevitably don't have the same level of depth and detail that longer plots can manage. Still, there's some fun... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth): A collection of Batgirl stories

Batgirl Vol. 3: Summer of Lies (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Chris Wildgoose

The third volume of Hope Larson's Batgirl run actually includes three separate stories, though the last is the longest and definitely the best. They're a nice mix of Barbara Gordon tackling old-school villainy and more contemporary issues, with her usual combination of bright-eyed enthusiasm and cutting-edge technology.

In "Troubled Waters" Barbara is investigating a haunted public swimming pool, in which several swimmers have seen a strange purple energy. Along with the over-enthusiastic host of a ghost hunting reality show. It's a short but fun tale that is totally lifted from Fred's backstory on season three of Joss Whedon's Angel, but also showcases Barbara's intelligence and mystery-solving skills.

"The Truth About Bats and ... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 2: Son of Penguin (Rebirth): Batgirl versus the Penguin’s son

Batgirl Vol. 2: Son of Penguin (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Christian Wildgoose

At the end of Volume One of Hope Larson's take on Batgirl, a new face had arrived in Burnside, Gotham, who answered to the name "Cobblepot" at the airport.

Turns out he's Ethan Cobblepot, son of the Penguin, though has never had any kind of close relationship with his father. He's handsome and clever, and wants to improve the world through technology, launching a variety of apps to ensure public safety. Barbara is charmed, and agrees to go on a date with him — though given the spate of tech-related crime happening in the area, she does have an ulterior motive in spending time with him.

The interesting thing about this series is that it doesn't just deal with big, bombastic, supervillain crimes, but issues such as homelessness, gentrification... Read More

Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside (Rebirth): Batgirl visits Japan

Batgirl Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside (Rebirth) by Hope Larson & Rafael Albuquerque

Now is the right time to admit that I don't read many DC comics — or many comics, period. I jumped straight into this series without any context of Barbara Gordon's life or background, beyond the general basics of the character. (For instance, I know she's the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and spent some time in a wheelchair, but I have no idea how she regained the use of her legs, or who Frankie is).

So how does this story hold up for someone with just a tenuous understanding of Batgirl? Pretty good.

Barbara is on holiday in Japan, catching up with her old friend Kai, enjoying the sights, and hoping to interview Chiyo Yamashiro, a one hundred and four year old superhero known as Fruit Bat.

But of course, events transpire that disrupt her holiday groove. Criminals adept in a range of martial arts are in pursuit of so... Read More

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games: The power-plays conclude

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

This is the fifth (or fourth if you don’t include the Jason Aaron Vader Down crossover) and final volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series, one that essentially follows Vader’s attempts to accumulate his own resources in secret, with the goal of eventually seeking out his son and luring him to the Dark Side — with or without the Emperor’s knowledge.

In this he’s been helped by a scrappy young thief and archaeologist named Doctor Aphra (who became popular enough to get her own spin-off series) and two droids: Triple-Zero and Beetee, a protocol and astromech droid respectively, who act like evil versions of C3-P0 and R2-D2.

As well as this, the Emperor has gathered a new set of potenti... Read More

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War: Vader has a go at political intrigue

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

The fourth volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series focuses more on political strategy and warfare than the earlier volumes (which were more to do with espionage). In the wake of the first Death Star’s destruction, the Empire is desperate to regain a foothold on the galaxy and reverse the morale acquired by the Rebellion through the loss of their great weapon.

Vader is sent to the planet of Shu-Torun, a place rich in natural resources that help fuel the Empire, where Ore Barons are fighting against their new ruler. Queen Trios was crowned by Vader himself after he assassinated her father, and in what feels like a deliberate reflection of Padme Amidala, she’s beginning to flex the boundaries of her power. To keep Shu-Torun under the control of the Emperor, Vader goes to support her rule.

... Read More

A Skinful of Shadows: A captivating read

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

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 originality of her previous work and felt alto... Read More

Star Wars: Vader Down: A crossover event in the midst of the DARTH VADER saga

Star Wars: Vader Down by Jason Aaron & Mike Deodato

It took me a while to figure out how Vader Down fit into the VADER series by Kieron Gillen that I was making my way through: turns out that this should be read after Vader and Shadows and Secrets, but before The Shu-Torun War (which is technically the third book in the VADER series). This is a crossover between the storylines in Gillen’s Vader-centric arc and those by Jason Aaron in his Rebellion-centric series.

Still with me? Okay, so Vader Down deals with Vader following up a lead on the pilot that destroyed the Death Star, and who in previous issues he found out was his son Luke Skywalker. Along with plans to build his own power base to undermine the Emperor’s authority, he now wants to hunt down Luke and tu... Read More

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