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.

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

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

Carrying on from the first Vader volume (which was simply called Vader) this compilation of issues further explores Vader’s attempts to pull together secret resources of his own, without the knowledge of his Imperial superiors. Having discovered that he has a son, Vader now wants more information on Luke Skywalker and to quietly undermine the Emperor himself.

Helping him in this endeavour is an amoral young archaeologist and thief named Doctor Aphra, and two droids who are clearly meant to be dark foils to C3-P0 and R2-D2: Triple Zero, a protocol droid with a sadistic streak (he lists his specialities as: “etiquette, customs, translation and torture”), and Beetee, an astromech who likes blowing things up. Oh, and a gang of bounty hunters... Read More

Blackbringer: An interesting early work from a favourite author

Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

Although now best known for her DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy, I was interested in checking out some of Laini Taylor's early work, specifically her duology DREAMDARK, made up of Blackbringer (2007) and Silksinger.

Magpie Witchwind is a young faerie that travels the globe, searching for devils (or "snags") that are gradually creeping back into the world. Originally trapped in bottles and other containers, the arrival of human beings and their insatiable curiosity means that these devils are now escaping their prisons and leaving destruction in their wake.

With her family of raucous crows, Magpie hunts down these devils, following in the footst... Read More

Darth Vader: Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Darth Vader: Vader by Kieron Gillen (writer) and Salvador Larroca (artist)

Darth Vader (Volume One): Vader by Kieron Gillen is just as good, if not better than, Star Wars (Volume One): Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron, both of which came out recently from Marvel. Marvel now has the rights to the Star Wars comic books, and so they are reissuing quickly all the Star Wars comics that were put out over the years by Dark Horse. In addition to these reissues, the... Read More

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows: A look at Vader through unexpected eyes

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows by Tim Siedell, Gabriel Guzman, Michael Atiyeh, Felipe Massafera

From the same author that released Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin, Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows is a graphic novel set a few months after The Revenge of the Sith, in which the Empire is consolidating its power across the galaxy.

Despite Vader’s name being in the title, it’s really the story of a clone soldier who is left for dead by his Jedi general during the Clone Wars.

Defecting from the army he hides away for years on a backwater planet, only to become intrigued by rumours of the terrifying Darth Vader. He signs up to become a Stormtrooper, and once again finds meaning on the battlefield – though it isn’t the same as when he fought under Jedi lead... Read More

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin: Darth Vader goes on a mysterious mission

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin by Tim Siedell & Stephen Thompson

I noticed with interest that this volume was published in 2013, meaning it just missed out on being an official part of the new Disney canon. Yet despite being relegated to what’s now called Star Wars Legends, Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin still fits into the new continuity (minus one small detail at its conclusion) that can be read as a straightforward standalone story.

The head of a vast mining operation vows revenge on Darth Vader after the death of his only son and heir. Having already sent eight assassins to kill the Emperor’s apprentice, he now goes in search of more lethal assailants, one that can guarantee to bring him Vader’s head.

Meanwhile, Vader manages to prevent another assassination attempt on the Emperor, one that very nearly succeeds despite their combined power in the Force. Realiz... Read More

Baba Yaga’s Assistant: A compelling tale by a gifted collaboration

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola (author) & Emily Carroll (illustrator)

Baba Yaga's Assistant, by Marika McCoola and illustrated by Emily Carroll, is a MG graphic novel that tries to work the frightening richness of the Baba Yaga folktales into the press of modern family life, but despite the great source material, the attempt falls short, though it has its moments.

The protagonist is Masha, a young girl whose father has just proposed to a woman sometime after her mother's death. Her father had relegated most of Masha’s upbringing to her grandmo... Read More

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones

Reposting to include Rebecca's review.

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Elio M. García, and Linda Antonsson

George R.R. Martin’s The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones is a companion to his A SONG OF ICE & FIRE novels. It provides modest spoilers for the series and is probably best if not read until readers have finished the third novel, A Storm of Swords, or finished watching the third season in the television series. (And the same is true of this review.)

Given that the title of this book — The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and th... Read More

The Way Past Winter: A simple but evocative fairy tale

The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The first thing about this book that caught my eye was just how beautiful it was: the green binding, the interior pattern, the embossed cover-art — I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it really is a lovely object to behold.

The story itself rides the current popular wave of Scandinavian-based fairy tales, and reads a little like Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen”. Winter has lasted for five years in Eldbjørn Forest, and siblings Oskar, Sanna, Mila and Pipa are barely hanging on. After their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, the four of them live all alone in the woods, seeing nothing in their futures but more of the bitter cold.

But after a strange encounter in the forest with a huge, bear-like man and his silent entourage, Mila wakes up to find her brother has disappeared. She insists he wouldn’t abandon ... Read More

The Illustrated World of MORTAL ENGINES: A great companion piece

The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

The film adaptation of Mortal Engines may have been a disappointment, but at least its release led to more material from Philip Reeve — not only this book, but a series of short stories starring Anna Fang, and new reprints of the original MORTAL ENGINES quartet. So it all works out well!

The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines (2018) is a standard tie-in volume that comes with many a book franchise, in which the world of Mortal Engines is explored in more detail, complete with maps, time-lines, illustrations, profiles of characters, and other little tidbits that adds depth and flavour to the world-building.

Here the presen... Read More

The Rules of Magic: The prequel to an old favourite

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

It's been over twenty years since Practical Magic was first published, and now we can finally snuggle up and enjoy another book about the Owens family. The Rules of Magic (2017) centres on the aunts of the first novel: Frances and Jet Owens, who are born and raised in 1950s New York City, along with their brother Vincent.

Like all Owens women, they are strikingly beautiful and surrounded by mystery. Jet can read minds, Frances can call birds to her hand, and even Vincent is blessed with an irresistible charm. But their parents are determined that their children should grow up as normal as possible, and it's not until they reach adolescence that they begin to realize the truth of their heritage.

And if one thing is certain, it's that a witch who denies her identity is doomed to misery. So while Frances buries her feelings for her ... Read More

Warrior Genius: Raises the stakes

Warrior Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

Warrior Genius (2018) is the sequel to Rebel Genius, the second in a planned trilogy by Michael Dante DiMartino, one of the co-creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender. There are plenty of similarities between the two tales: a gang of four precocious kids and their exotic pets, a richly imagined historical/fantasy setting (though one based on Renaissance Italy instead of Medieval Asia) and a complex set of rules that makes up a quasi-magical system of power wielded by a chosen few.

In this world artists (whether they're sculptors, painters or musicians) each have a Genius that acts as their muse: an animal through which they can channel their talent to create work... Read More

Rebel Genius: The start of a new imaginative trilogy

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

I'll admit that I picked this up from the library shelf because I knew the author was Michael Dante DiMartino, the co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the greatest animated shows of all time. Naturally I was curious to see what he would do in another storytelling format, and Rebel Genius (2016) certainly had a compelling blurb.

Young Giacomo Ghiberti lives in a world where artists — whether they're painters, sculptors or musicians — have bird-like creatures who help channel their creative powers. Called Geniuses, they're beautiful creatures, who provide inspiration and life-long companionship to their artists, but unfortunately they're also outlawed. The city of Virenzia is ruled over by the self-styled Supreme Creator Nerezza, who has decreed that anyone caught with a Genius should be executed.

That's how Gi... Read More

Leia: A fascinating look at a teenaged Princess Leia

Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

The thing about STAR WARS tie-in books is that they can never contradict what happens in the films, which means they also can't have stakes that are particularly high. The big galaxy-shaping events have to be saved for the big screen.

So it makes sense that a lot of them come across as "filler" or "prequel" stories, which add details and background to things we already know have happened. In the case of Leia: Princess of Alderaan, we learn a bit more about Princess Leia in the year she turned sixteen: the trials she must pass to become future queen, her induction into the Rebellion, and her first love. None of it is hugely crucial, but it's always nice to spend a little more time with your favourite characters.

To be formally named heir to the throne of Alderaan, Leia must prove herself in the areas of body, mind and heart, which m... Read More

Skeleton Key: A darker take on the teen spy’s adventures

Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz

The ALEX RIDER books have always veered on the side of realism (as opposed to other teen-targeted spy stories such as Spy Kids and Kim Possible) but even I was surprised by just how dark the third book in Anthony Horowitz's series actually got.

Having been recruited and trained by MI6 in order to infiltrate locations and undergo missions in which teenagers go unnoticed, fourteen year old Alex is happy to be free of espionage and just hanging out with the lovely Sabina Pleasure (a Bond girl if ever there was one).

Naturally, his fun is over when he's once again approached by the Special Divisions Unit — first to go undercover as a ballboy at Wimbledom to investigate a strange break-in, and then (which takes up the bulk of Skeleton Key Read More

Superman: Dawnbreaker: An inconsequential look at pre-caped Superman

Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Peña

In comparison with the other three books in the DC ICONS COLLECTION, I'm afraid I have to say that Superman's entry is not the best. As with the others, it explores the adolescence of a famous superhero before he or she donned a mask and cloak, and in this case, focuses on farm-boy Clark Kent realizing that strange things are happening in his rural hometown of Smallville.

Along with his best friend Lana Lang (reimagined for the first time as a would-be reporter) Clark gradually becomes aware of a sudden corporate interest in the farms of Smallville, and a spate of missing Mexican workers. The arrival of Lex Luthor and the two squabbling sons of philanthropist Montgomery Mankins doesn't feel like a coincidence, and for the first time Clark begins to utilize his abilities in the attempt to ... Read More

Catwoman: Soulstealer: A fun story for a fun character

Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

The DC ICONS COLLECTION has a very simple premise: take a famous DC superhero, give them to a popular YA author, and have them craft a story about each character's adolescence, well before they put on their capes and tights and started crime-fighting. It allows the authors to delve into a part of each character's life that's not often explored (well, except for Clark Kent on Smallville) and give us stories about superheroes that aren't comic books or filmic adaptations.

Among the featured characters (Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman) Catwoman stands out as the one protagonist whose "hero" credentials are somewhat suspect. Better known as an amoral cat-burglar, Selina Kyle is reimagined in Catwoman: Soulstealer (2018) as a dirt-poor teenager struggling to car... Read More

Batman: Nightwalker: A fun adventure with a young Bruce Wayne

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Superheroes permeate nearly every facet of pop-culture these days, and someone at Penguin Books found a way to capitalize on that popularity: round up some successful YA authors and have them write original stories about the most famous DC superheroes while still in their adolescence (the heroes, not the authors).

Therefore the DC ICONS COLLECTION gives us new stories about Wonder Woman, Batman, Catwoman and Superman before they adopt their later personas, most of them no more than seventeen or eighteen years old at the time these tales are set.

Batman: Nightwalker (2018) tackles Bruce Wayne, fast-approaching his eighteenth birthday but still grappling with the loss of his parents. It's not an easy life despite his wealth, and he prefers to avoid th... Read More

Wonder Woman: Warbringer: A fresh look at an old favourite

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

The DC ICONS COLLECTION is a series of four YA novels that take a famous DC superhero and explores their background before they became the stuff of legends. This means having a look at their adolescence, whether it's Clark tending the farm in Smallvillle, Bruce doing voluntary work in Arkham Asylum, or Selena Kyle struggling to survive the streets of Gotham City.

In the case of Princess Diana, she's a young Amazonian warrior on the island of Themyscira, just beginning to understand her incredible power, but mostly eager to use it to impress her mother. That changes when a young woman is washed ashore, and Diana decides to break the law of the island by rescuing her.

Her new friend is called Alia, who is naturally baffled by her own environment — but has a secret of her ow... Read More

A Pocketful of Crows: A short but evocative offering

A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris

You're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but how could I resist the artwork of Joanne Harris’ 2017 novel A Pocketful of Crows? The black background, the gold embossing, the stylized crow... I immediately snatched it up.

It's a story based heavily on the traditions and holidays of medieval England, with chapters divided into months and snippets of various ballads and proverbs added throughout, both of which help lay the foundation of the story.

A shapeshifting wild girl of the forest meets by chance a highborn noble, and soon becomes infatuated by him. The feeling seems mutual, but after a whirlwind romance, reality sets back in and the girl is asked to leave the castle.

Naturally, a creature of the wild doesn't take rejection very we... Read More

The Broken Ones: A fitting prequel to the MALEDICTION TRILOGY

The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen

This is a prequel novel to Danielle Jensen's MALEDICTION TRILOGY, which is comprised of Stolen Songbird, Hidden Huntress and Warrior Witch. A lot of people like to read books series in chronological order, but I would highly recommend not doing that here, as The Broken Ones (2017) well and truly assumes you've already read the original trilogy.

Beneath the Forsaken Mountain is the city of Trollus, ruled over by a tyrannical king and his son Tristan. But unbeknownst to on... Read More

The Assassin’s Blade: Four short stories provide extra insight

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Over the past few years I've been reading Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series, though thanks to my dislike of e-books, never got around to reading the five novellas that explored some of the early years in Celaena Sardothien's career.

Celaena is a famous assassin in the employ of Arobynn Hamel, the ruthless master of the Assassin's Guild. Though few have seen her face, Celaena already has a fearsome reputation despite her youth, and is recognized as Arobynn's protégé among the other recruits.

The five stories within The Assassin's Blade (2014) involve separate but connected adventures that are mentioned throughout the THRONE OF GLASS books, and shed insight as to how Celaena ended up where she is at the start of the first boo... Read More

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