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.

The Red Turtle: Like nothing you’ve seen before

The Red Turtle by Michael Dudok De Wit

Have you ever felt completely hypnotised by a movie? That was how I felt watching The Red Turtle, a story of — quite simply — survival and love. From the moment it started from until the second the credits rolled, I was fixated on the images unfolding in front of me: a man that washes up on a deserted island, his explorations of the beach and interior, his miraculous meeting with a mysterious woman, and the life they lead together, utterly cut off from all civilization (if you're wondering where a red turtle fits into all this, I won't spoil it for you).

Directed and co-written by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is a collaboration between Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli, which brought us such films as The Artist (a black-and-white silent 2011 film) and Hayao Miyazaki's entire repertoire (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky Read More

Happy Death Day: Unexpectedly fun

Happy Death Day by Christopher Landon

Since Groundhog Day came out in 1993, the premise of a single person being forced to live the same day over and over again has been adapted for the science fiction (Edge of Tomorrow), thriller (Run Lola Run), and psychological horror (Salvage) genres, with even television episodes from Charmed, The X-Files and Xena: Warrior Princess getting in on the act.

Happy Death Day passes the idea over the slasher genre, in which Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) relives her birthday countless times — with it ending in her murder at the hands of a masked killer each time. The solution seems clear: she has to figure out who it is that keeps killing her if she's to move forward with her life.

One of the staple components of this type of story is that the main character learns something from their experience. In this case Tree is that typica... Read More

Coco: Another visual feast from Pixar

Coco by Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina

When you settle down to watch a Pixar movie, you know you're in for a treat. But as it happens, I finished Coco with rather mixed feelings. It ticked all the boxes of what we've come to expect from Pixar: a fascinating and inventive original premise, loveable characters, plenty of humour, at least one surprising plot-twist, and visuals that seem to glow with colour (especially in this film!) And yet Coco treads a lot of familiar ground when it's compared not only to other the rest of the Pixar repertoire, but a wider range of animated family films.

Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) is a twelve-year old boy with music in his soul. He's desperate to become a musician and to follow in the footsteps of his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (a famous actor/singer/song-writer) but due to a dark family secret, all music is strictly forbidden in his household.

Seeking inspiration from ... Read More

Star Wars Rebels: Season 1: A new chapter in the STAR WARS saga

Star Wars Rebels: Season 1 by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg & Greg Weisman

This show has been on my radar for a while, and I'm glad I finally found the time to settle down and binge the first fifteen episodes of the first season. As a follow-up to The Clone Wars (2008 – 2014) and a bridge between the prequel and original trilogies, Star Wars Rebels also holds the distinction of being the first STAR WARS project to be released after Disney's procurement of the franchise.

Would it match the maturity and relative darkness of the preceding animated series? Or would it be "Disneyfied" for the kiddies? Turns out, the project was in good hands: producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman are no strangers to serialized animated shows, and although it takes a couple of episodes to really hit its stride, Star Wars Rebels can boast compelling characters, intriguing plot-lines, fun world-building and a ... Read More

Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Lost Adventures

Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Lost Adventures by Aaron Ehasz (Author), Josh Hamilton (Author), Tim Hedrick (Author), Dave Roman (Author), J. Torres (Author), Joaquim Dos Santos (Illustrator)

As far as ideas for comic book tie-ins go, a series of "lost adventures" that take place over the course of any given series isn't a bad one.

Collected here are the somewhat inconsequential escapades that happened to the protagonists of Avatar: The Last Airbender across all three seasons, from Aang attracting a swam of scorpion-bees, to Sokka impersonating the Avatar to impress a girl, to Azula and Zuko challenging each other to an arcade game — even a two-page spread on Momo stealing some fruit.

Although plenty of the stories in Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Lost Adventures (2011) are lightweight offerings that cover things like training or travelling or other bits of minutia (like... Read More

Demon: Volume 4: The blood-soaked conclusion arrives…

Demon: Volume 4 by Jason Shiga

So we come to it at last: the fourth and final instalment in Jason Shiga's Demon, detailing the misadventures (and catastrophic body-count) of Jimmy Yee, a one-time accountant who discovers he possesses the body of the person standing closest to him whenever he commits suicide.

As befits a final volume, Demon: Volume 4 is absolute, wall-to-wall insanity. There's death, war, guns, massacres, catapults, baseball bats, kamakaze stunts — in fact, there's probably something intensely violent happening on practically every page.

Having possessed the body of a foetus at the end of the last book, Jimmy has finally busted out of the womb, ready to find his daughter Sweetpea and prevent his arch-nemesis Hunter from unleashing hundreds more demons on the world... Read More

Demon: Volume 3: The hunt continues…

Demon: Volume 3 by Jason Shiga

This is the third book in Jason Shiga's Demon quartet; the story of Jimmy Yee, an otherwise ordinary accountant who realizes he's a demon. This means that whenever he takes his own life, he ends up possessing the body of the person closest to him.

It's a free pass to wealth and power, though ever since Jimmy found his daughter Sweetpea (also a demon) and evaded capture from the secret-ops agent who's determined to exploit his abilities, Jimmy has been lying low for the past hundred years.

After that long, a hedonistic lifestyle with no boundaries or limitations is beginning to wear a little thin. Surely there's got to be more to life than food, sex and drugs?



Demon: Volume 3 is a nihilistic look at the meaning of life an... Read More

Demon: Volume 2: The (extremely violent) mystery continues…

Demon: Volume 2 by Jason Shiga

In the second volume of Jason Shiga's Demon, we find Jimmy Yee pondering his options.

As he found out in the previous book, he's a demon who possesses the body of the closest physical person to him every time he takes his own life.

Across the course of that story he experimented with the limits of his power and is now close to mastering the logistics of his macabre gift.



 

 

Unfortunately (at least from his point-of-view), you can't leave behind a trail of bodies without attracting attention.

Agent Hunter leads a special military taskforce that knows what he can do and how to counteract it. His mission is to recruit Jimmy to the American government by any means necessary.

Bu... Read More

Demon: Volume 1: A dark and disturbing page-turner

Demon: Volume 1 by Jason Shiga

If you have a strong constitution and fifteen minutes to kill, you could do a lot worse than picking up Demon (2016), Jason Shiga’s graphic novel about a nihilistic suicidal actuary who finds a reason to go on living when he realizes he possesses the body of the person closest to him each time he kills himself.

His wife and daughter having died in a car accident, Jimmy Yee decides to end it all — only to find that his suicide attempts are thwarted each time by powers beyond his control.

The first half of the story involves him grappling to understand the rules of the new forces that govern his life, while the second sees him become the target of an elite military taskforce determined to contain him.

It's bloody, it's gory, it crosses the line more than a couple of times, but Jimmy's increasing lack of morality combined with ... Read More

The Vampire Diaries 2: The Fury & The Reunion

The Vampire Diaries: The Fury & The Reunion by L.J. Smith

This is the second bind-up for THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. The Fury and The Reunion were originally published as two separate books; in fact, The Reunion was published some time after The Fury, which effectively closes the trilogy begun with The Awakening and The Struggle). In The Fury Elena, alongside her friends Bonnie and Meredith, struggles to control her nature and discover the source of the evil Power that is haunting Fell’s Church. She knows that the only way it can be defeated is if the two vampire brothers Stefan and Damon can put alongside their lifelong enmity and work together. In The Reunion Fell’s Church is once again being terrorised b... Read More

SAGA Volume 3: This series is so addictive!

SAGA Volume 3, Issues 13-18 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

This highly original space opera romance is incredibly popular, and for good reason. Anyone who has read Saga Vols 1 & 2 will undoubtedly be fans of star-crossed lovers Alana & Marko, who come from opposing sides of a galactic war, Marko’s sharp-tongued mother Klara, freelancer assassin The Will and his lie-detecting cat, and Marko’s ex-fiance Gwendolyn. Not to mention the difficult-to-hate Prince Robot IV and all the other bizarre creations of Vaughan and Staples. The authors have continued to breath life into their fresh, genre-bending blend of space opera, romance, family drama, and chase amid a galactic war tale with an amazingly effortless sense of humor. What I like most about this series is their willingness to go off on weird story tangents without losing the momentum of the larger story.

Witho... Read More

The Book of Never Vol 1 – 3: A stranger on a mysterious quest…

The Book of Never Volumes 1 – 3 by Ashley Capes

Never is a man with a magical gift and a history that's as mysterious as his name. Hunted by the soldiers of ruthless Commander Harstas, Never is known for having blood with an usual trait: every time it mingles with that of another person (usually in combat situations), he takes on their memories, personality, and — at the start of this story — any illnesses they might carry.

Now struck with a strange fever that he can't seem to break, Never's ongoing quest to find answers to his condition and his past is endangered by the vulnerable state he finds himself in.

Teaming up with some companions that promise a cure (but who may or may not be trustworthy) the story is divided into five distinct parts (or novellas) which can be purchased separately or in collected editions. Since I've read the first three, “The Amber isle”, “A Forest of Eyes”, and “River God... Read More

The Woman in Black: A classic ghost story

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

So what does a young actor do after starring in one of the most lucrative franchises in cinema history? That was the precise dilemma facing the 22-year-old Daniel Radcliffe in 2011, upon the completion of his 8th and final Harry Potter film. The Potter series had brought in a whopping $7.7 billion worldwide over its 10-year run, firmly establishing Radcliffe as an international star. And so, the question: What next? Wisely, the young actor’s follow-up project was another in the supernatural/fantasy vein, and one that was also based on an already well-loved source. The film was 2012’s The Woman In Black, another successful film for Radcliffe, having been produced for $15 million and bringing in almost $130 million at the box office. The film was based on English author Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the sam... Read More

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle by L.J. Smith

Elena is the ice-blonde queen of the school, admired by girls and boys alike. With her friends, Bonnie and Meredith, she enjoys her status and uses it to snag the most eligible boys. However, Elena always feels as though something is missing. When new boy Stefan starts at the school, she suspects she has found what she is looking for, but Stefan manages to resist her charms. Elena makes a vow with Bonnie and Meredith that she will have Stefan no matter what — little suspecting that he hides a deadly secret. When Stefan's brother Damon arrives on the scene, Elena may be in more trouble than she realizes.

I am a big fan of L.J. Smith's writing, and have enjoyed a number of her books. I did enjoy both The Awakening and The Struggle, but felt that they suffered due to an unlikable main character.... Read More

SAGA Volume 2: A comic book that lives up to its name

SAGA Volume Two, Issues 7-12 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

I’m so late to the party that the weekend is over and everyone is back to work on Monday. I like to write SF reviews to introduce new books to people who might not have read them yet, but SAGA is already so popular and well known that the only advantage to discovering this series so late is that I can read the first 5 volumes straight through without having to wait!

The story moves so propulsively you have to force yourself to slow down. The characters are so likeable that even the contract killers and military robot royalty are sympathetic. And the dialogue written by Brian K. Vaughan is so infectiously fun, snarky and charming that I kept laughing out loud. It’s a space opera, yes, and a story of star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of a protracted interstellar war. And they have a brand-new baby. Their arguments... Read More

SAGA Volume 1: A brilliant series

SAGA Volume One, Issues 1-6 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

Brian K. Vaughan's brilliant new series SAGA is a mixture of fantasy and science fiction, with wonderfully humorous and realistic dialogue between a newlywed couple. But the subject being addressed (and critiqued) is war. It's also incredibly sexually explicit, so I must give my warning to those who either prefer not to have in their heads images of people with television heads having sex or want to keep such images from their kids. (Personally, I find it funny to watch one of the television head characters, a powerful and vicious military official and member of the royalty, struggle with impotence when out of his official attire.)

The premise of the story is that a couple and their new-born child, Hazel, are on the run from just about everybody involved in the war. When issue one begins, the war has been going on for many ... Read More

The Blue Sword: Strong female lead, interesting moral conundrum

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

This, my friends, is how young adult fantasy is done. In The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley has created a world out of whole cloth and polished it until it shines. Or in this case, until it is a dusty desert full of horse riding warriors, a dwindling magic, demon barbarians invading from the north, and civilized white men invading from across the ocean. McKinley is a master of prose, and this book has stood the test of time for almost 25 years now.

The Blue Sword is the story of Harry Crewe — don’t you dare call her by her given name of Angharad — who, upon the death of her parents, is sent to live at a fort on the Homeland frontier with her brother who is in the colonial army. Unlike most of the colonists, Harry is fascinated by the desert, and when Corlath, the leader of the Free Hillfolk of Damar, comes to the Homeland fort to negotiate for a... Read More

The Five Sisters: A whimsical adventure from a master storyteller

The Five Sisters by Margaret Mahy

You always know you're in for a magical, whimsical treat when reading something by Margaret Mahy, one of New Zealand's most best-loved children's authors. The Five Sisters (1997) is no exception, recounting the marvellous adventures of five paper dolls with linked hands.

On a hot summer day Sally entreats her Nana for a story, but instead watches as she folds a piece of paper and draws a doll with a crooked smile and strong running shoes called Alpha. But before the rest of the sisters can be coloured in, a kingfisher swoops down and snatches them up while Sally and her Nana are fetching lemonade.

The adventures that follow involve a near run-in with a lawnmower, an evil magician in the guise of a china pig, a playful breeze, a career as a bookmark, and several attempts t... Read More

Wavesong & The Stone Key: Still a long way to go…

Wavesong & The Stone Key by Isabelle Carmody

Every book in Isabelle Carmody's THE OBERNEWTYN CHRONICLES is longer than the one before, which accounts for the splitting of the fifth volume into two parts. Though The Stone Key (2008) was originally published by Penguin as a singular book, American publisher Random House divided it into Wavesong and The Stone Key, turning the original volume into the fifth and sixth books in the series.

As I'm a New Zealander, I ended up reading the Australian copy of the book, so any American readers should consider this a review of Wavesong AND The Stone Key. By this point we're several books into the series, w... Read More

Dogsbody: Another gem from the mind of Diana Wynne Jones

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

My usual response to reading any book by Diana Wynne Jones is: "how does she come up with this stuff?" This is swiftly followed by bewilderment (especially in the wake of Harry Potter) that nobody has ever adapted any of her work, despite the fact her stories would make for excellent on-screen entertainment.

Dogsbody (1975) is no exception. It begins by introducing the immortal Dog Star Sirius, who is in serious trouble with his peers. Accused of murder and theft, Sirius is sentenced to life on Earth as a mortal dog, where he is sentenced to die after his considerably shortened lifespan. He has only one chance at redemption: he can return to his celestial home only if he tracks down the mysterious stolen Zoi and returns it to the heavens.

... Read More

American Gods: Mixed opinions

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is a bad land for Gods... The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing. Either you've been forgotten, or you're scared you're going to be rendered obsolete, or maybe you're just getting tired of existing on the whims of people.

Shadow, just out of prison and with nothing to go home to, is hired to be Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard as he travels around America to warn all the other incarnations of gods, legends, and myths, that “a storm is coming.” There's going to be a battle between the old gods who were brought to melting pot America by their faithful followers generations ago, and the new gods of technology, convenience, and individuality.

That's the premise of Neil Gaiman's American Gods and it's just crackling with promise! But... Read More

Norse Mythology: A master storyteller relays the myths he loves

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman makes no secret of his love of Norse mythology and folklore. It shows up over and over in his fiction (Sandman, American Gods, Odd and the Frost Giants to name a few); and he has mentioned his love of the stories in interviews and essays. In Norse Mythology (2017), Gaiman puts his distinctive narrative voice in service to this mythological cycle and tells us the tales of the beginnings of the Norse gods, all the way through to beyond their ending, the dread battle of Ragnarok.

Read More

Monstress: Volume Two by Marjorie Liu

Monstress: Volume Two by Marjorie Liu

As much as I enjoyed the first volume of Marjorie Liu's Monstress, its second instalment (comprised of issues seven to twelve) is a vast improvement. The first volume was stuffed full of exposition and world-building and backstory, so much so that it was difficult to discern the actual plot. Granted, that made it exciting and complex, but I also had to read through it three times just to glean what was going on.

By contrast, Volume Two has a much clearer arc, which allows the reader to better appreciate the characterization and story beats.

One-armed Maika Halfwolf is on the run from a number of powerful organizations looking to exploit the ancient monster that lives beneath her skin. Every now and then it manifests from her missing limb in the form of hideous eyed tentacles, forcing her to struggle with its bl... Read More

Warrior Witch: A bittersweet conclusion to a strong YA trilogy

Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

The third and final book in Danielle L. Jensen's THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY picks up right where its predecessor left off: with the death of the witch Anushka and her curse upon the trolls lifted. Now they're able to leave their city under the mountain, which is bad news for humanity since they're led by the deranged prince Roland and his puppet-master Duke Angouleme. Their first objective is to overthrow the country and subdue all its people, and only Tristan and Cecile, the star-crossed lovers whose marriage was meant to prevent such chaos, can stop them.

Working within the tangled web of magical rules and regulations that have been established in previous books (such as trolls being unable to lie, but also able to extract unbreakable promises from humans), Jensen brings together her r... Read More

Hidden Huntress: Avoids the usual pitfalls of the middle book in a trilogy

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

The second book in Danielle L. Jensen's THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY continues the complex political intrigue between the powerful trolls who live beneath the mountain and the eighteenth-century humans who dwell on the surface. In the first book, Stolen Songbird, a truce was attempted by an arranged marriage between Tristan, the heir to the troll kingdom, and Cecile, a kidnapped opera singer. Their union was prophesied to dissolve the magical barrier that keeps the trolls beneath the earth, one put in place by the witch Anushka hundreds of years ago — but the trolls still remain imprisoned.

As so often happens in YA books, the dislike and mistrust between Tristan and Cecile gradually grew ... Read More

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